Monthly Archives: June 2018

UPDATE: Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joins Legal Battle to Prevent Dangerously Deceptive Decoupling Greyhound Bill from Appearing on the Florida Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent attempts to completely remove the gambling associated with greyhound racing from Florida. This was not something that passed in the legislature this year, so the idea was to propose the idea through the constitutional amendment committee. It started a as a full removal, but it didn’t have the votes to pass as is, so it quickly morphed into a very dangerous and quite frankly deceptive decoupling bill. If you remove the greyhound racing, but allow slot machines and other types of gambling, all that you have done is created a network of mini-casinos.

Many don’t like the idea of the dog races, so they wouldn’t ordinarily stop at those places to gamble, but if no races exist, then its simply a convenient place to stop and gamble, and that can lead to all kinds of negative effects for Florida families. Many see this new amendment as simply eliminating the greyhound racing and gambling all together, so it’s a very deceptive bill. Beyond those reasons, there is also the problems with using the Florida constitution to be the legal space to enact such a change, especially when such a change should be done through normal legislation. The desire to solve this problem the proper way, has generated a lawsuit, and now some major support and legitimacy to the position has been established with a new addition to the legal team. Florida Politics explains:

Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Major B. Harding has joined the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA) legal team. The addition of Harding, a high court appointee of the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, was announced Wednesday by association general counsel Jeff Kottkamp. Harding served on the Florida Supreme Court 1991-2002; Kottkamp was Florida’s lieutenant governor from 2007-11 under Gov. Charlie Crist.

“The suit requests that the court strike Amendment 13 from the general election ballot,” Harding said in a statement. “The basis for our challenge is that the ballot title and summary do not fairly inform the voters of what they are being asked to vote on … In order to maintain the integrity of both the election process and our Constitution, we believe the amendment should be struck.”

Among other claims, the suit says the ballot title and summary “… fail to inform voters that its passage would essentially expand gambling by allowing pari-mutuel facilities in Florida to convert to mini-casinos.” The amendment would allow other gambling activities such as card games to continue at tracks after dog racing ends.

Kottkamp and Paul Hawkes, a former appellate judge and now also on the FGA legal team, have previously opined against the measure, saying the CRC “was never intended to be a ‘super-Legislature’ or a vehicle to propose putting issues in the constitution that ‘can’t get through the Legislature.’

“And, it was certainly never intended they would place proposals on the ballot merely because they were thought to be a ‘good idea,’ ” they said.

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

 

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A Brief Look at Crime 06/18 – 06/24

Jail for accounts administrator who stole over €150k from employers to fund gambling addiction

An accounts administrator who stole over €150,000 from his employers to fund his gambling addiction has been sentenced to two years in prison. Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, Judge Martin Nolan said Luong had committed a “huge error of judgement and obviously, a huge breach of trust” in stealing from his company. “He had a pernicious gambling addiction and used his knowledge to take the company’s money. This money was lost by reason of his gambling and he’s in no position to repay it,” said the judge. The court heard that Luong altered these documents and substituted his own IBAN details instead of the company’s so that monies were transferred into his bank account. The sums of money stolen ranged from €3,000 to €35,000, with the total amount taken totalling €156,497. Gda Keane said the head of the company became aware that funds were being diverted to Luong’s account and suspended him pending a full investigation. He was later fired after Price Waterhouse Coopers identified eight occasions when he had diverted monies into his account.

Woman arrested in connection with illegal gambling at maquinita 

A woman has been arrested for her alleged connection to illegal gambling at a maquinita. Police said the illegal gambling investigation led to simultaneous raids in Laredo, Zapata and Falcon Heights in January. Leticia Cantu de Calzada, 59, was served with an arrest warrant charging her with gambling promotion and engaging in organized criminal activity. Authorities said they seized $1.9 million in connection with the raids. This included $1.5 million found at a home in Zapata owned by Diana Hilda Guerra Villarreal, 69, who is the suspected head of the Villarreal criminal organization, officials said. Guerra Villarreal was arrested back in January. She was charged with money laundering. Her daughter, Rebecca Lopez Villarreal, was also arrested and charged with gambling promotion, keeping a gambling place and engaging in organized criminal activity. “This case has … yielded one of the largest, if not the largest, cash seizure in Zapata,” said District Attorney Isidro R. “Chilo” Alaniz at the time.

Fatal Dog Fights on the Rise

Lured by gambling profits and machismo, more than 40,000 people across the nation attend staged animal fighting events, which often result in an animal’s death. The beast of choice remains the pit bull, favored by trainers for its loyalty, “gameness” and willingness to continue fighting through extreme pain and exhaustion. Pit bulls have been bred for more than a century to propagate genes favored in fights, and are thrown in the ring most often. Breeds such as akitas, rottweilers, and German shepherds also are used.

The attraction crosses across all ethnic lines, sometimes even bringing together members of Aryan, black and Latino gangs to organize a fight card, one detective said. “It is something we’ve seen in practically every state,” said Lockwood, who has a doctorate in animal behavior. Chris Sanford, a narcotics detective in the small Northern California town of Galt , says he learned a lot about the dog-fighting underworld in 1998 when he received a tip about an upcoming fight that led to the several arrests, as well as the confiscation of 60 dogs, drugs and illegal weapons. It was one of the biggest operations in the Western United States. He says tougher laws against dog fights — which had normally been left in the venue of animal control officers — have become a useful tool to catch criminals who are also active in drug trafficking, illegal gambling and other crimes.

Father-and-son from Sheffield plead with gambling bosses to stop more families being ‘destroyed’

A gambling addict from Sheffield whose habit landed him behind bars has written to gambling chiefs demanding action to prevent more families from being ‘destroyed’. David Bradford, from Waterthorpe, racked up more than £500,000 in debts and was jailed for two years after stealing over £50,000 from his employer. The 61-year-old and his son Adam have issued an emotional plea to industry bosses to better promote responsible gambling and safeguard others from addiction and its ‘ruinous’ impact.

In an open letter, written ahead of a government announcement expected this week about the outcome of a review into gambling legislation, they say there are almost half a million gambling addicts in the UK and many more people who are unaware of their addiction. “This is half a million communities wrecked, families destroyed and lives ruined,” the letter states. “There is a lot of work to do to clean up the act in the gambling industry. My father hid his addiction for years and got himself into a financial hole because of it, eventually stealing money and bankrupting our family, jeopardising our home and serving a prison sentence. “We are left with a bleak future because of an addiction which he had no support for and which none of your companies ever spotted. “No family wants to lose their father to prison and nobody wants to lose anybody to gambling. This week do not take the Government’s legislation lightly. There is a lot more to be done and you can lead the way.”

Ex-Hopi school superintendent gets 2 years for million-dollar embezzlement 

A former superintendent who embezzled nearly $1 million from a Hopi school is going to prison. A federal judge sentenced 45-year-old Thane Epefanio in Phoenix this week to two years as part of a guilty plea to money laundering and wire fraud. The Avondale man was the superintendent and administrator of the Hopi Mission School on the Hopi reservation in Kykotsmovi. According to prosecutors, Epefanio used his position to embezzle school funds beginning in 2012. He manipulated the staff to provide him money but made it look like the funds were being used for school operations. They say Epefanio was siphoning money for a gambling habit and personal expenses.

Caregiver charged in elderly woman’s death embezzled $100K 

A Westport woman is facing serious charges that she caused a woman’s death by way of neglect and stole $100,000 from her in the process. Fairhurst, 80, was hospitalized on Jan. 16, 2017, and died there nine days later. Her weight had dropped 50 pounds in the last months of her life, Quinn’s office said, and it was determined that malnutrition and bed sores contributed to her death. Medeiros was Fairhurst’s longtime friend, caregiver and health care proxy, and she also had power of attorney over Fairhurst’s finances, Quinn’s office said. Prosecutors allege she failed to provide adequate medical attention to Fairhurst, as it appeared she had not received professional medical care in the 18 months prior to her death. Prosecutors also allege that in November 2013 Medeiros withdrew approximately $100,000 from Fairhurst’s checking account with one bank and deposited it into Fairhurst’s savings account at another bank. Then, she allegedly withdrew $104,186.89 from that account and closed it, before transferring the money to her son and his wife, Clifford and Kristin Medeiros. Court documents obtained by Eyewitness News revealed he has a criminal history of “violence, guns” and a background of “drug addiction and gambling addiction.”

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


New Wave of Sports Gambling Brings Real Gambling Addiction Fears & Consequences

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent Supreme Court decision which legalized sports betting outside of the limited venues like Las Vegas. Many states have already legalized this gambling in their states, including the state responsible for taking the case to the Supreme Court, New Jersey. With this new and immediate access to gambling, many are worried about a crop of new gamblers falling pray its harmful addiction. An online source explains:

Much of the apprehension relates to the prospect of myriad forms of online sports betting — accessible to gamblers at any time and location via their mobile phones. There‘s particular alarm over the anticipated explosion of so-called “in-game wagering” in which gamblers bet, often at a rapid pace, on play-by-play developments — for example, will the next football play be a run or a pass. “You lose track of time,” said Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling. “The goal of the operators is to get you into a zone where you lose your financial reasoning and think of nothing except betting.”

“We think this is the biggest expansion of gambling in our nation‘s history, in one fell swoop,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “Absolutely, categorically, there will be more risk factors for addiction — we‘ve never had that much high-speed, high-stakes interactive access to any sort of betting.”

The dangers associated with problem gambling are numerous and not only will this radical expansion of gambling create new addicted gamblers, its going to have a very negative effect for those patients who are already addicted. An online medical source explains:

Legalizing sports betting may have grave consequences for individuals with gambling addiction. Healio Internal Medicine spoke with Mark A. Celio, PhD, assistant professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University School of Public Health.

“Gambling can impact health in many ways. For example, gambling can directly or indirectly increase stress. It could be financial stress or it could be interpersonal in nature. Either way, long-term exposure to stress has very real consequences for physical and mental health. Ironically, problem gamblers may believe that gambling provides relief from stress. These people can easily find themselves stuck in a cyclical pattern where their gambling produces stress that they then try to alleviate with more gambling, only to be left with more stress.”

The National Council on Problem Gambling provides resources for screening, as well as services that are available in each state: https://www.ncpgambling.org/

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

 


A Brief Look at Crime 06/11 – 06/17

Grandmother wanted in 2 murders arrested after weeks-long manhunt

A woman suspected of killing her husband in Minnesota, then fleeing to Florida and killing a woman who resembled her in order to assume a new identity, was captured Thursday night at a South Texas resort. Two federal deputy marshals arrested Lois Riess, 56, about 8:30 p.m. at a South Padre Island, Texas, restaurant, the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement. South Padre Island is a beach resort community 27 miles from the crossing into Mexico. She had been seen on March 23 at a convenience store and casino in northern Iowa. Authorities released video showing Riess approaching the store cashier, buying a sandwich and asking for directions south of the state. The store is next to a casino where authorities say Riess spent the day gambling before stopping at the gas station.

Deadly-double shooting sparked by argument over gambling

Atlanta Police are trying to determine the connection between two victims in a deadly double-shooting. They said an argument over gambling led to the gun violence Saturday night in northeast Atlanta. Detectives interviewed several witnesses at the scene on Parkway Drive after gunfire erupted around 9 p.m. “They informed us there was some sort of argument that happened amongst several parties out here,” said Atlanta Police Captain Reginald Moorman. Captain Moorman told *Channel 2 Action News* officers first on the scene found a man lying on the sidewalk outside of an apartment complex. “Once they arrived on the scene, they found a male that was deceased,” he said. A number of people gathered around the crime scene, as detectives investigated. “We do know there was a dispute here over gambling, and that one person ended up dead after that argument,” said the police captain.

Officer fatally shoots man who tried to disarm him during scuffle after chase from casino

A man died after being shot during a struggle with a Shreveport police officer. It was reported at 5:43 p.m. Sunday on Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway in downtown Shreveport, Caddo 911 dispatch records show. Preliminary investigation indicates that the man, who had been barred from El Dorado Casino, was chased from the casino to the city’s Red River District. That’s where the man and officer got into a scuffle outside Proud Mary’s and the man was shot while trying to disarm the on-duty officer, authorities said. The officer suffered minor injuries.

Nurse charged with defrauding employer of $350,000

A Bangor Township registered nurse is accused of stealing a six-figure sum over a five-year period, all to pay for a gambling habit, police are alleging. Back on Aug. 9, 2017, an investigator with the National Insurance Crime Bureau contacted the Michigan State Police to report he was looking into a possible insurance fraud scheme regarding Peridore. Investigators determined Peridore, a registered nurse, was a contract employee with Mid-Valley Interim Healthcare and was supposed to provide nursing services to an area woman who had been severely injured in a 1992 traffic crash. Peridore had provided services to the injured woman for about 11 years, but the woman’s family fired her in the spring of 2012. Peridore neglected to report this to her employers and continued billing them for services she was not, in fact, providing, police allege. This continued until February 2017, when a National General Insurance Company investigator discovered it, court records show. Between June 2012 and February 2017, Peridore had fraudulently obtained $356,809.70, court records state.

Two men fatally shot in north Houston warehouse

Two men were fatally shot in north Houston Monday morning after an attempted robbery in a warehouse that appeared to be housing an illegal gambling operation, Houston police said. Just a minute before the robbery and shooting, three men in masks robbed another man outside the warehouse, Turner said. It is unclear whether that robbery and the shooting are connected. A woman who identified herself as the sister of one of the dead men said she heard the men were shooting dice. The woman said she had no idea her brother, Ezavian Stanley, gambled, if he did. She said she was also “very surprised” he was caught up in anything like illegal gambling and that his shooting came “out of nowhere.”

Woman who embezzled from trucking company sentenced to jail, gambling counseling

A 55-year-old woman who police say embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Kentwood trucking company has been sentenced to six months in jail. May Beth Knapp also was ordered to complete six months of home arrest following her jail time, five years of probation, 200 hours of community service and go to counseling for gambling problems. Knapp was operations manager for D & M Logistics and responsible for loading Comdata cards for drivers. they would then use them at truck stops to purchase fuel. Police said Knapp loaded the cards andbrought them to local truck stops where she had them cashed weekly throughout 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to a police affidavit. In an initial police affidavit, she was accused of fraudulently obtaining more than $500,000.

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


New Jersey Finally Legalizes Sports Betting just in time for World Cup – The Largest Gambling Event of the Year

Casino Watch Focus has reported on New Jersey’s ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting. After 4 years, they have finally passed successful legislation given the Supreme Court’s decision allow what might go down as the largest expansion of gambling in our history. Ironically, New Jersey wasn’t the first state to legalize sports betting, but now that they have, they have their sites on the World Cup. An online source explains:

New Jersey became the third state in the country with a full menu of legal sports betting options on Thursday, as the Monmouth Park Racetrack and the Borgata casino both started taking wagers before noon. Monmouth Park had the honor of taking the first bet at 10:30 am, with the Borgata officially opening their sportsbook a half-hour later. In was [New Jersey Gov. Phil] Murphy who had the honor of placing the first legal sports bet in state history. He actually made two, each for $20: one on Germany to win the World Cup and a longshot bid on the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup next season.

It’s estimated to be a massive, worldwide betting event and possibly the single largest betting even of the year.

It is not an exaggeration to say that billions of people around the globe will tune in to watch the drama unfold in Russia over the next month. The World Cup is also the biggest gambling event of the year. Billions will be wagered, both legally and illegally. Since the Supreme Court struck down the law restricting sports betting in the U.S. on May 14, 2018, states are lining up to legalize the practice and cash in on extra tax revenue.

Any time gambling events this big come up, the worry for problem gambling and gambling addiction comes up. Below is some information that explains why and how you might help someone with gambling addiction:

Dr Gary Johnson, Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director at The Priory Hospital Chelmsford, considers major sporting events a particularly risky time for gamblers:

“The upcoming summer sports events and in particular, the World Cup, will see increased gambling across the board”, he points out. “Much of that will be temporary but for gamblers with a problem, that upturn in gambling may well continue”. Dr Jackson highlights that all aspects of gambling need to be considered in trying to reduce the risk of people becoming addicted.  “From the accessibility of gambling sites to shop advertisements, to awareness campaigns about the risks involved and the availability of resources for those with a problem (or worried they may be developing one) awareness and proactive action is key.”

If you are concerned, Dr Jackson offers this advice to help those with a gambling problem: “Help them by encouraging them to consider the downsides to their addiction”. And to the sufferer themselves, he advises: “Be open about bank accounts, consider handing over credit and debit cards to a trusted family member, manage finances with a family member and consider attending Gamblers Anonymous or seeking other addictions specialist help.”

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


A Brief Look at Crime 06/04 – 06/10

2 targeted in deadly shooting at Vegas casino picnic 

Police were searching Monday for a man accused of opening fire on a picnic for a group of employees of a Las Vegas Strip casino-resort, killing a woman and critically injuring a man this weekend in what investigators called workplace violence. Authorities say Anthony Wrobel walked up to a table in the gazebo area of a park Sunday evening and shot an executive and a fellow employee of The Venetian at close range. Police said Wrobel, 42, has been described as a disgruntled employee of the casino-resort, where he has worked for 14 years.

Ex-Detroit Union Leader Charged with Stealing over $600,000 to Gamble at Casinos

man who was a union leader in Detroit has been charged with embezzling more than $600,000. Mervin Hawk appeared in federal court Monday and asked for a court-appointed lawyer. Federal investigators say he diverted union dues from AFSCME Local 1640 into secret bank accounts or his own personal account over a two-year period. Hawk was president of Local 1640 from 2013 through 2015. AFSCME stands for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The government says Hawk withdrew large sums of money from ATMs at Motor City Casino.

Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City pays penalty for underage gambling violation 

The Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City agreed to a penalty today from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission for allowing minor to gamble. Racing and Gaming administrator, Brian Ohorilko, says it happened in November. “She was on the floor for 56 minutes and had gambled at two different slot machines. The facility did notice her after she had been on the floor — approached her requested identification — and she refused and exited the casino quickly. It was determined later that she was indeed underage,” Ohorilko says. He says the situation met all the three criteria to be considered a violation of underage gambling. He says the past precedent is for an administrative penalty of $20,000s and the Hard Rock agreed to pay that penalty. He says the penalty was based on the past history of the casino.

Woman pleads guilty to embezzling $266K from cancer charity

A woman pleaded guilty in Gulfport Monday (April 16) to embezzling $266,598 from a Mississippi Gulf Coast non-profit that provides wigs and prostheses to cancer patients, the Biloxi Sun-Herald reported. Melinda Rosetti-Spence, 53, made her tearful plea in Harrison County Circuit Court before Circuit Judge Lisa Dodson, saying she had a gambling problem, the newspaper reported. Rosetti-Spence is free on a $50,000 bond pending her July 2 sentencing. The state of Mississippi is recommending a 20-year prison term, with 10 suspended, plus restitution. In court Monday, Rosetti-Spence admitted that between March 2015 and July 2016, she stole donations and wrote checks to herself from the Pink Heart Funds, the Sun-Herald reported. Rosetti-Spence was the volunteer treasurer and event planner for the group, based in Long Beach.

Nonprofit Group’s Former Leader Sentenced for $300,000 Embezzlement

The former executive director of a nonprofit childcare and community program who embezzled more than $300,000 from the organization has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison. Kiburi Tucker had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion. He will have to pay $133,624 in restitution to the IRS and forfeit $334,116 under the sentence imposed Wednesday. The 43-year-old Newark man led The Centre, a now-defunct Newark-based nonprofit. Prosecutors say he took $332,116 from the group between 2012 and 2015, using it to pay for gambling expenses, travel and to furnish his home. Prosecutors say Tucker filed false personal income tax returns in which he under-reported the money he embezzled and income from his partnership in Elite Strategies, a political fundraising and consulting firm.

Former Rogersville water superintendent indicted for theft over $250K and theft over $60K

On Wednesday morning, Hatchett was arrested on a Hawkins County grand jury sealed indictment warrant on one count of theft over $250,000, one count of theft over $60,000, and one count of official misconduct. Hatchett, 49, 109 Sycamore St., Rogersville, was suspended from his position as city water superintendent shortly after informing the water commission he had lost $69,444 in cash receipts that he was supposed to have deposited in the bank the week of July 10, 2017. Multiple sources in law enforcement confirmed for the Times News that Hatchett apparently had a gambling problem and spent a great deal of time at the casino in Cherokee, N.C. Players at that casino keep their “bank” on a credit card, as opposed to carrying around cash, chips or coins, and investigators reportedly acquired those records and determined that Hatchett had gambled away a vast amount of money, much more than he could have earned legally during that time period.

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


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Asks Federal Government for Sports Betting Oversight while States Fight for Their Right to Regulate

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sport betting. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal law that prevented nationwide sports betting was unconstitutional. As a result, states are now able to legalize this form of gambling. Naturally, the sports leagues are very concerned given their position has always been to oppose legalized sports betting due to worry of the integrity of the game. Now that federal law has been overturned however, the leagues are getting involved in a variety of ways. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is asking Congress to establish uniform policies based on four core principles. Yahoo sports provides Goodell’s statement:

As it was for my predecessors, there is no greater priority for me as the Commissioner of the National Football League than protecting the integrity of our sport. Our fans, our players and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field. This week’s ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment.

We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees and partners. These efforts include supporting commonsense legislation that protects our players, coaches and fans and maintains public confidence in our games. We are asking Congress to enact uniform standards for states that choose to legalize sports betting that include, at a minimum, four core principles:

1. There must be substantial consumer protections;
2. Sports leagues can protect our content and intellectual property from those who attempt to steal or misuse it;
3. Fans will have access to official, reliable league data; and
4. Law enforcement will have the resources, monitoring and enforcement tools necessary to protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.

At the same time Goodell and the leagues are looking after their interests, the states are also positioning themselves to get a cut of this new wave of gambling. Unfortunately for the states, it appears federal legislation is already in the works. An online source explains: 

State gambling regulators are fighting back against the major sports leagues’ assertion that US sports betting would be better regulated by the federal government than by individual states. A statement on Tuesday issued on behalf of four state regulators in Nevada, Michigan, Massachusetts and Louisiana by the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, concludes that “coordinated action among jurisdictions” — rather than federal regulation — will be the key to protecting sports integrity and battling the black market. Goodell called on Congress to “enact uniform standards” for states that opt to regulate. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the subtext: why lobby for your interests in dozens of states when you can save a lot of money by just lobbying Congress? US Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is known to have had talks with the NFL and is planning to introduce federal sports betting legislation which, when it surfaces, is likely to include the league’s “core principles.”

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