A Brief Look at Crime 06/19 – 06/25

Russian Gang Hacked Slot Machines and Plotted Over Stolen Sweets, U.S. Says

There were the usual accouterments of an organized crime prosecution: an illegal poker house and cases of stolen cigarettes, the authorities said. But there was also a scheme to defraud casinos with a hacking device that predicted the behavior of particular models of electronic slot machines. And a plot for a woman to seduce men, drug them with chloroform and then rob them. There was even a large shipment of stolen sweets: 10,000 pounds of chocolate confections that two defendants were overheard discussing on a court-ordered wiretap in March, according to a federal indictment. The authorities offered few details about the slot-machine scheme. In January, they said, Mr. Shulaya was overheard in a phone call discussing the testing of devices that would predict slot-machine behavior; in another call, he was told about the reconnaissance of a casino that featured a particular model of slot machine that would be susceptible to the device.

Shooting victim fends off would-be robbers after leaving Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady casino

Would-be robbers apparently followed a man from Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino in Gardena, purposely bumped his car from behind as he drove away and shot him four times in an unsuccessful attempt to steal his winnings, police said Wednesday. The victim survived, but the assailants escaped, police said. “Luckily, it just grazed his head,” Gardena police Lt. Steve Prendergast said. The attempted robbery and shooting — caught on security video — occurred outside a Chevron service station at Rosecrans and Vermont avenue about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, shortly after the victim left the casino across the street. According to police, the victim won a large sum of money at the casino. As he drove away, the men bumped his car from behind at the intersection. Not realizing the bump was intentional, the victim pulled into the service station and got out of his car to exchange information. Two men got out of the other car and tried to rob him. The victim, however, resisted the crime and struggled with the men. During the fracas, the victim was shot four times, police said.

Brooklyn Grandmother Robbed Of $100K In Casino Earnings

On Saturday morning, two men posing as Jehovah’s Witnesses tricked a 76-year-old Brooklyn woman into letting them into her apartment, then fled with her briefcase containing $100,000 in casino winnings, according to a spokesperson with the NYPD. The thieves first knocked on Yvonne Reeder’s home in East New York just before 10 a.m., police said, and were allowed in after convincing the elderly woman that they were religious door-knockers. Once inside, police say Reeder told them one man pushed her to the ground, while the other went straight to the bedroom to take a briefcase filled with money and a Samsung tablet. Reeder said that she was scared during the robbery, but did not sustain any injuries. “They pushed me over by the wall,” she told the Post.

Kentucky cockfighting pit destroyed, property owners sentenced

A photo released by federal prosecutors in Abingdon, Virginia gave us a glimpse inside an illegal cockfighting venue that operated for more than 30 years. The Big Blue Sportsman’s Club in McDowell, Kentucky had 5,000 members. It housed an 8,000 square-foot facility that featured arena-style seating, multiple fighting pits and a restaurant. The building sat on property owned by Shirley Ray Slone, 73, and Vernon Kelly Slone, 69. Prosecutors said the two men started the club in 1977. They gave up day-to-day operations in the early 1990’s and chose to lease the facility to others for a cut of the entrance fees. The Slones were paid $3 for each person who attended a cockfight. In 2014, the Big Blue Sportsman’s Club was the site of a law enforcement raid. Several people were arrested on federal charges related to cockfighting, gambling, and narcotics trafficking.

Montana woman sentenced to prison for health care fraud

A Montana woman has been sentenced to five years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $460,000 in restitution and back taxes for lying about her family income to obtain Medicaid benefits, creating false claims for treatment at her father’s physical therapy practice and pocketing the payments, the U.S. attorney’s office said. U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon sentenced Elizabeth Jones Powell of East Helena on Tuesday. She pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss 17 other felony counts, including money laundering. Powell, 52, performed office duties and insurance billing for her father’s physical therapy practice in Helena. Prosecutors say from 2009 to 2013 Powell made $584,000 in false insurance claims resulting in actual losses of nearly $421,000 to Medicaid and other insurers. Investigators found that Powell spent at least $32,000 on gambling, court records said.

St. Paul Park man steals a quarter of a million dollars from vulnerable relative

A St. Paul Park man was charged with felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Gregg Wilwert, 38, stole over $250,000 from the victim he had power of attorney for while living in a senior living facility, according to a criminal complaint filed June 8 in Washington County District Court. The Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center reported financial abuse that began last September and ended May 31. Using $80,000 of the stolen funds, Wilwert purchased a hot tub, snowmobiles and snowmobiling gear, a refrigerator, new TVs and furniture, a trip to Florida, diamond jewelry, garage renovations, a tractor and frequent casino visits. About a week before the financial exploitation charge was filed, Wilwert was charged May 30 with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in a separate case. He posted $125,000 bond on those charges and has been out of jail since that time.

Former Winnebago Tribal Council member pleads guilty to casino theft

A former Winnebago Tribal Council member — one of nine indicted last summer in an alleged conspiracy to steal from the tribe’s casino — has pleaded guilty. Last July, a federal grand jury indicted nine former Winnebago council members, charging each with conspiracy, theft and misapplication of funds belonging to an Indian gaming establishment, and wire fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the remaining charge, though the U.S. Attorney’s Office has recommended he be sentenced to five years of probation and be ordered to repay any funds he obtained illegally from the casino. The distributions to defendants were paid through the use of casino gift certificates and pre-paid debit cards paid for by the casino. The total amount of gift certificates issued to the defendants in 2013 and 2014 was $87,000. The total amount loaded to the debit cards of the defendants in 2013 and 2014 was $240,500.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

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