Monthly Archives: November 2018

Will Florida Amendment 3 Push the NFL’s Jaguars to London?

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the many faces of sports betting. With a fairly recent Supreme Court decision that allows for sports betting, many states have expanded in many ways. Florida had yet to pass legislation to legalize sports betting, so everything from daily fantasy sports to full sports books, remains open in Florida. Recently, the NFL has started shifting advocacy to support sports gambling and individual teams will be able to set up sponsorships like the Dallas Cowboys have done with a casino in their market. The Miami Dolphins came out against Amendment 3 and now there is talk about the Jaguars being more open to moving to London to avoid the current lack of open sports betting options in Florida. The NESN sports network explains: 

The future of legalized sports betting in Florida looks bleak at best, and one prominent NFL reporter thinks that could significantly alter the league’s landscapes in years to come. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on Wednesday morning wondered whether the new law makes it more likely Jaguars owner Shad Khan will ultimately move the team to London. “The passage of the new amendment that, as a practical matter, will make it much harder to adopt sports wagering (and in turn create revenue streams like in-game prop bets) could make a relocation to London even more attractive to Khan,” Florio wrote. 

Speculation about Khad moving the Jaguars to London has existed almost since Khad bought the team in 2011. Khan’s purchase of English soccer club Fulham in 2013 only fanned those flames, and there’s been increased chatter about a potential relocation in recent years. Sports betting is far more prominent in the English soccer world, with no shortage of English Premier League partnerships. What’s more is that in-game betting is also allowed, and fans can place those bets from inside the stadium. The latest developments in Florida not only ensure in-game wagering won’t be coming to the Sunshine State anytime soon. It will also make it harder for the state’s pro sports teams to partner with sportsbooks because, well, the sportsbooks aren’t coming to Florida.

There are a lot of variables to the level of profitability form gambling NFL teams will even see, not to mention all of the logistical issues with the NFL having a team in London in general. Its hard to imagine that the chance of side gambling profits, profits that barely exist in the league at the moment, would be enough to move a team. This will undoubtedly be a developing story, but the move to London has been a topic since 2011, so its unlikely Florida NFL fans have much to worry about right now. 

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


A Brief Look at Crime 11/19 – 11/25

Chinese mother kills herself and her two children because she believed her husband was dead – only for it to emerge he is alive and FAKED accident for an insurance payout

A grieving Chinese woman has killed herself and her two young children after her husband faked his death in an attempt to claim insurance payout – but without her knowledge. Ms Dai, 31, apparently jumped into a pond bringing her four-year-old son and three-year-old daughter last Thursday in Xinhua County, south China’s Hunan Province, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency. Ms Dai’s husband, 34-year-old Mr He, had also hoped that his fake death could help him dodge his debts from internet gambling which amounted to more than 100,000 yuan (£11,000), according to Xinhua County police. Mr He bought a personal accident insurance worth one million yuan (£100,000) on September 7 without telling his wife, the police said in a statement on its official social media account. During the wee hours of September 19, Mr He used a borrowed car to fake his death. He produced a crash scene, which looked like he had accidentally driven the car into a river and died.

Northeast Ohio woman accused of stealing over $600,000 from elderly, disabled people

A northeast Ohio woman is accused of scamming elderly and disabled people while serving as their caregiver, allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of benefits, finances and even loans that she helped patients take out. Dotson reportedly used the stolen funds on gambling, entertainment and luxury purchases. According to the indictment, Dotson accessed financial accounts of an elderly man with disabilities and stole $633,736 by writing checks, using electronic payments and transfers, changing beneficiary designations and making ACH direct deposits. She allegedly issued duplicate paychecks to herself in amounts that exceed the “home health aid industry standards for earnings and supplies needed for care of victim.”

Little Egg Harbor couple sentenced for stealing Sandy funds

A couple from Little Egg Harbor was sentenced Friday for their roles in stealing $1.4 million from people whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, authorities said. Jeffrey Colmyer, 43, and his wife, Tiffany Cimino, 35, of Little Egg Harbor, diverted money paid by victims with Sandy relief funds to have their homes rebuilt and instead used it on luxury items and for gambling, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a statement. Colmyer was sentenced to seven years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Guy P. Ryan in Ocean County. Cimino was sentenced to five years of probation. The defendants must pay $695,402 in restitution to the victims and $655,243 to the state as restitution for the stolen Sandy relief funds. In addition, Colmyer must pay $56,472 to the state for back taxes, and Cimino must pay $56,332.

Ottawa man gets 6 years for embezzling from La Salle company

An Ottawa man is headed to prison for 6 years for embezzling as much as $1.8 million from his former La Salle employer to support a gambling habit. When offered a chance to speak at his Friday sentencing, Marshall Martyn acknowledged an addiction that he didn’t confront until well after he’d taken an irreplaceable sum from Pipe Vision, CIPP and Fast Pipe, where he had managed the books until his dismissal in early 2017. “I know what I did was wrong and I accept responsibility,” Martyn told Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. He added later, “Gambling is an addiction. It was much bigger than me and I was too weak to handle it.” Ryan was only partially persuaded, however. The judge rejected the 10-year sentencing recommendation prosecutors had agreed to after Martyn pleaded guilty on Aug. 17; but Martyn and his lawyer were unable to secure a prison term near the 4-year minimum. Martyn was charged a year ago with felony theft (more than $500,000 but less than $1 million) over a five-year period when the ran the companies’ books. The company, however, immediately disputed the amount taken and alleged Martyn embezzled $1.8 million.

Canada’s casinos used by criminal gangs, wealthy Chinese to launder over US$75 million

The briefing took place just a few days after David Eby began his new job as British Columbia’s attorney general – and it began with a warning. “Get ready,” Eby remembers being told by casino regulators in the western Canadian province. “I think we are going to blow your mind.” What they showed him was footage of individuals wheeling suitcase stuffed with C$20 (US$15) bills into casinos. Others used hockey bags to haul the cash. Surveillance videos then showed the individuals trading in the cash for casino chips.

It was Eby’s first glimpse of what some in the global intelligence community had taken to calling the Vancouver model – a scheme in which some of the province’s casinos were unwittingly used to launder more than C$100 million during the past decade. “We are famous internationally – or, more accurately, we have become infamous – for money laundering,” Eby told a federal parliamentary committee earlier this year. “It’s just mind boggling,” Eby says in an interview. “The sheer volume and the size of these transactions on a regular basis in casinos is just astounding.”

Former Indiana CU Assistant Manager Sentenced for Bank Fraud

Paula Awe, a former assistant manager of an Indiana credit union who ran a check-kiting scheme along with her manager, was sentenced last week to 18 months in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Jon E. DeGulio in Hammond, Ind., also ordered Awe to pay $180,000 restitution and to serve two years of supervised release following her prison sentence. Awe and her manager, Sandra Santay, of the Lakeside Federal Credit Union in Hammond, had each been operating two independent check-kiting schemes that fraudulently inflated their respective share accounts over three years, according to court documents. The scheme was detected by a routine NCUA examination. Santay, who managed the credit union for 37 years, was sentenced in May to 27 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $491,169. Santay spent the credit union’s funds on her gambling addiction. Awe used the credit union’s funds to pay personal expenses. 

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



Supreme Court Betting Case Lawsuit Against NFL and other Sports Leagues Shot Down by Court

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the New Jersey Monmouth Park lawsuit against the sports leagues in the wake of the Supreme Court legalizing sports betting. For years New Jersey attempted to legalize sports gambling, and for years, the courts shot down all their efforts. In the states most recent attempt however, the managed to get their case before the Supreme Court and they emerged victorious. Most simply moved forward with sports legalization efforts, but New Jersey’s Monmouth part saw an opportunity to sue the sports league. Their claim was that the various leagues had blocked years of sports betting revenue. Unfortunately for Monmouth Park, a court rejected their claim. ESPN reports:

Late Friday, United States District Judge Michael A. Shipp denied a claim filed in May by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) — a group associated with the Monmouth Park racetrack and casino — asking “for judgment on $3.4 million injunction bond plus interest and damages.”

The New Jersey-based group had filed the renewed claim against the NFL, NCAA, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball within weeks of the Supreme Court’s May 14 decision that opened the door for states to authorize sports betting nationwide.

“The Court … finds NJTHA was not wrongfully enjoined,” wrote Judge Shipp in a just-released nine-page ruling obtained by ESPN. “The Court, accordingly, finds good cause exists to deny NJTHA damages under the injunction bond.”

With the courtroom win, the NFL, NCAA, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball avoid a ruling that would have allowed other bookmakers to claw-back money allegedly lost during the time between when the five leagues sued to enforce the federal law banning single-game wagering outside of Nevada, and the date the Supreme Court declared the ban to be unconstitutional.

Monmouth Park and the NJTHA could potentially appeal Judge Shipp’s ruling in the coming weeks. The group had previously claimed “that the Leagues acted in bad faith by wrongfully blocking the NJTHA from operating a sports betting venue at Monmouth Park.” Neither current New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy nor former Governor Chris Christie were part of the case.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 11/12 – 11/18

‘Cocaine-using gambling addict’, 26, ‘stabbed his own grandmother 30 TIMES over gambling debt

A cocaine user stabbed his grandmother 30 times after building up a £35,000 gambling debt, a court has heard. Gregory Irvin is alleged to have murdered 74-year-old Anne James, who was making soup and unpacking after a shopping trip, during a 15-minute visit to her home on February 28 this year. The killer wasn’t a stranger to her – it wasn’t a burglar. On the contrary, the killer was somebody she trusted implicitly and who had always been welcomed into their home throughout his life – it was her own grandson, the defendant, Gregory Irvin.’ The prosecutor added:: ‘The defendant was a person who regularly requested money from other people – from his partner, and his parents and his grandmother. ‘In the past he had racked up very large debts in the region of £35,000 because he had a gambling problem.’ Ms Brand said the prosecution could not say whether the defendant’s gambling problems ‘were all in the past’ but it was known that he had arranged to pay the debt off in installments under an IVA. Money had previously gone missing from Mrs James’s house, the court heard.

Nurse with gambling problem gets prison, must pay back $460,000 

A registered nurse whose gambling habit led to her stealing six figures from her employers has resulted in a prison sentence. Peridore had provided services to [an] 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. Police interviewed Julie Salter, the president and CEO of Mid-Valley Interim Healthcare, who said she had hired Peridore in 1996 or 1997. She believed Peridore had been providing weekend nursing services to the injured woman until learning otherwise in February 2017, when Peridore emailed her and confessed to having submitted bogus invoices. Salter said she fired Peridore, who told her she had been motivated by a gambling problem, court records show. “I needed the money,” Peridore told police, according to their reports. “I had an issue with going to the casino and spent way more money than I should have.”

UKGC penalises Rank £500,000 for problem gambling protection failures

The Rank Group has been ordered to pay a £500,000 financial penalty by the UK Gambling Commission, after failings allowed a customer to lose in excess of £1m, that had been credited to his account, in one 24-hour period. Relating to gambling at the organisation’s land-based Grosvenor Casino, in addition to online at website, an investigation by the UKGC found weaknesses in the responsibility controls of both.

Further failures highlight that Rank failed to interact with the customer who was displaying problematic behaviour, contacted him during a self-exclusion period and did not follow rules for the provision of credit. Richard Watson, Gambling Commission executive director, said: “We expect all operators to protect any consumer who may be experiencing problems with their gambling, and operators shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that VIP customers don’t experience difficulties. “No matter how wealthy customers are, operators still need to monitor them effectively to ensure they aren’t showing signs of problem gambling. It is certainly not appropriate to visit customers during a period when they are self-excluded.”

Post Office worker stole more than $600k in stamps to fund gambling

An United States Postal Service manager allegedly stole $630,000 in stamps from a Louisiana post office, sold them online and used the proceeds to fund large casino expenses, according to federal charges announced Wednesday. Strasser’s release said the alleged crime was “one of the largest internal Postal (thefts) by a Postal Service employee in the history of the U.S. Postal Service.” Authorities began investigating Cortez after PayPal and eBay notified Postal agents that Cortez had been selling “significant quantities” of stamps online, the release said. Even though Cortez’ salary was around $70,000, investigators found he had lost more than $650,000 at a casino since 2011, according to the United States Attorney’s office. The release says Cortez lost more than $220,000 at the casino in 2017. Cortez is also accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from a local Mennonite church. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, a release says.

Plea deal made in Missouri City businessman’s death at gambling operation

A man accused of shooting and killing aMissouri City during a 2014 aggravated robbery attempt pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder , among other charges. Investigators said that on the night of July 17, 2014, two men wearing masks and carrying assault-type rifles shot and killedDonald Leonetti wounded another man at 12800 Trinity Drive in Stafford. There, investigators found an underground gambling operation. “They’re saying a high-stakes gambling (event) was going on here at this location,” a Stafford officer said at the time of the incident, adding that the men stormed the office, demanding wallets and cash off the poker table. Police believed at the time that it may have been an inside job by someone with knowledge of the time and place the game was played.

Ex-sheriff’s officer pleads guilty to wire fraud after taking more than $180k from police organization

A former Porter County sheriff’s officer pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzling more than $180,000 from a police organization. “So, how’d you do this?” Judge Philip Simon asked. Lawrence LaFlower, 42, of Valparaiso, told the federal judge that he took the money from a Fraternal Order of Police account by writing checks to himself or with a checking withdrawal slip at the bank. “Nothing fancy here. Just literally withdrawing the money?” Simon asked. “Correct,” LaFlower said.Between April 2013 and April of this year, LaFlower said he was the treasurer for the Fraternal Order of Police Ewalt Jahnz Lodge No.165 in Valparaiso. LaFlower was also a lieutenant and public information officer with the sheriff’s office. He resigned in May. During his time as FOP treasurer, LaFlower took money from the FOP’s accounts and gave it to himself, he said. “We believe this is due to a gambling issue that the defendant had,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Abizer Zanzi said.

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

Florida Votes to End Dog Racing – What Comes Next?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the complicated decoupling issue masked as a simple greyhound ban that later officially became known as Amendment 13The amendment needed 60% voter approval to pass and it received 69%. At face, the Amendment will end live dog racing at the end of 2020, but many questions remain. The Amendment also decoupled the gambling requirements at those facilities from the actual live racing.   This means the facilities aren’t shut down completely, but they can offer simulcast races and slot machines and other prior authorized forms of gambling. The Orland Sentinel explains that some tracks will operate as these mini-casino’s, while others will have fewer options:

While all other tracks in Florida also have card rooms to supplement their dog-racing revenue, Sanford Orlando does not, making its future more tentative.

Florida’s 11 active dog tracks will have until Jan. 1, 2021, to phase out their live greyhound racing. They’ll still be able to race horses, if their tracks can accommodate the event, and they’ll still be able to have wagering on simulcast races from other tracks, including from dog tracks in the five remaining states where the practice is still active and legal.

The questions of how much gambling expansion will also need exploring thanks to the passage of Amendment 3, which will now require voter approval for new gambling. This is a bit of a grey area as it may seem clear that a new simulcast track may not be able to be built without voter approval (a key worry with decoupling as it would be far easier to set up a simulcast location and operate as a mini-casino via decoupling), but expanding the gambling at an existing location may be perfectly permitable. The key example is the number of slot machines. The Sun Sentinel explains how existing tracks could simply drastically increase their numbers as the amount allowed is already established: 

Dog track owners in Florida will be allowed to keep operating card rooms. They’ll be able to run slots in the case of dog tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. So, another result could be that track owners will use their space to expand restaurants and nightlife, or even casino floor space. In turn, the combination of anti-gambling expansion Amendment 3 and anti-dog racing Amendment 13 could mean already existing casinos offer more entertainment options for patrons. 

There already is an example of that. The Magic City Casino in Miami had been a dog track until last year, when the state Department of Business andProfessional Regulation gave it permission to convert to ajai-alai fronton.

The decision capped off a six-year legal fight between the casino and state regulators. With the jai-alai court taking up far less room than the track, Magic City Casino has plans to expand by putting the jai-alai court where its entertainment venue, Stage 305, is now and then building a much bigger entertainment venue on top of the old dog track.

The Big Easy Casino, a Hallandale Beach dog track, would have to stop racing within three years. What might be in store? An option for the Big Easy could be to expand lucrative slot machines. According to its own website, the casino currently offers “more than 500” slot machines. The upper limit for perimutuel casinos under state law is 2,000, though none of them at this point have approached that limit. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 11/05 – 11/11

Alleged Bonanno Mob Associate and Joker Poker Machine Supplier Shot Dead at McDonald’s Drive-Thru 

Sylvester Zottola, a reputed mob associate of the Bonanno family in New York who operated Joker Poker gambling machines for the criminal enterprise, was shot dead this week at a McDonald’s drive-thru in the Bronx. Zottola, 71 at the time of his murder, facilitated the Joker Poker terminals along with his adult son in the 1990s and 2000s, according to court reports. Thursday evening’s shooting is the latest in a series of hits on Sylvester and his 41-year-old son Salvatore. Joker Poker, also known as Kings or Better and Joker’s Wild, is a variety of video poker where a single joker is introduced and a gambler’s hand must consist of a pair of kings or better to win. The mob and gambling have a long and well-documented relationship. In the 1930s and 40s, numerous businessmen with ties to the mob were responsible for pinpointing what was then a largely vacant Nevada desert to begin building the gambling mecca that would become Las Vegas as it’s known today.

SA executive who spent stolen money on male prostitutes, gambling headed to prison 

A San Antonio business executive who embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from his employer was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday as part of a plea deal with Bexar County prosecutors. Victim impact letters entered as evidence in the case confirm that Martinez, who worked as the controller of the Southern Folger Detention Equipment Company from January 2012 to May 2014, used money acquired from stealing checks and creating fake invoices to pay for lavish trips to Las Vegas, gambling and to hire male prostitutes. Halloran said he was forced to eliminate more than 10 positions through two rounds of layoffs and had to temporarily suspend the company’s profit-sharing program.

Man faces federal charges in sexual assault at Laughlin resort

An Arizona man is facing federal charges in connection with the sexual assault of a woman at a Laughlin resort, the Department of Justice announced Thursday. Richard Anthony Hernandez, 23, is charged with one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of aggravated sexual abuse. He was ordered held without bail Thursday after a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl W. Hoffman. Prosecutors said Hernandez and a woman, who is a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, entered a room at Avi Resort & Casino in Laughlin on Monday. He is accused of repeatedly striking her in the face and body, and sexually assaulting her in the room, according to a Justice Department news release. Officers from the Fort Mohave Tribal Police Department found the hotel room in disarray, with blood spatter on the walls and near the door, along with blood on the beds, the release stated. Hernandez faces life in prison if convicted.

Ex-hedge fund manager gets 8 years in prison for $22M scam 

A former hedge fund manager has been sentenced in New York to eight years in prison after cheating 45 investors of over $22 million. Michael Scronic was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel in White Plains. The 46-year-old Scronic also was ordered to pay $22 million to his victims. He pleaded guilty in March, admitting he defrauded the investors over a seven-year period. Prosecutors said he stole about a half million dollars annually to fund his luxurious lifestyle. Prosecutors say Scronic claimed that his hedge fund, run from his Pound Ridge, New York home, had a positive investment return when it lost money in every quarter but one. His lawyers had sought a sentence of no more than three years, blaming Scronic’s crime on a compulsive gambling problem.

Pennsylvania Man Allegedly Stole $374,000 From Employer and Spent It on Strippers, Hockey and Gambling 

A Pennsylvania man who worked at a trucking company has been caught allegedly funneling client payments into his own account. 29-year-old James R. Perry allegedly stole nearly $400,000 from his workplace between April 2015 and when he was caught in July 2018. Perry’s role was as director of credit and billing at R&R Express. Authorities allege he stole the money by using a computer program that would redirect payments into his own account. The customer’s bill would be considered a bad debt and the company would simply write it off and take the financial hit. The alleged scheme was eventually uncovered by coworkers who logged in to Perry’s account one day when he was off work. A warrant was issued to search his computer and seize his financial records. According to WPXI News, the bulk of the money has already been spent on adult entertainment (strip clubs), casino gambling, jewelry and Pittsburgh Pirates and Penguins hockey tickets. In total, he was accused of stealing $374,000 from the company.

3 tennis chair umpires banned for life for match-fixing, gambling 

Three chair umpires from Thailand have been banned for life from tennis after being found guilty of match-fixing and betting offenses. The Tennis Integrity Unit announced the sanctions Monday against Anucha Tongplew, Apisit Promchai and Chitchai Srililai, who were accused of betting on matches and manipulating scores in the official scoring system at ITF Futures tournaments in 2017. In a statement, the integrity unit said all three umpires admitted the breaches. The case was adjudicated by independent anti-corruption hearing officer Charles Hollander. The TIU says “the lifetime bans apply with immediate effect and prohibit each individual from ever officiating at, or attending, any sanctioned events organized or recognized by the governing bodies of the sport.” The TIU is an initiative of the Grand Slam Board, the International Tennis Federation, the ATP and the WTA.

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


Florida Voters Pass Amendment 3 to take Control of Casino Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the evolution of the Voters in Charge which later officially became know under the title Amendment 3The Amendment sought to give the final approval of expanded gambling to the voters. If passed, new gambling would require approval of 60% of all Florida voters, which is clearly aimed at taking the power away from the politicians. The Amendment required 60% approval to pass and the Amendment 3 pass by an overwhelming amount. The Tampa Bay Times reports: 

Floridians will retain exclusive rights to authorize and potentially expand casino gambling in the state, including slot machines and electronic betting games.

Amendment 3, which garnered about 71 percent of the vote Tuesday, was proposed by Voters in Charge — a political committee largely financed by the Seminole Tribe and Disney.

The ballot initiative came about after the Legislature failed to agree on gambling decisions in recent years — particularly in the House, which is more opposed to gambling than the Senate.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports the amendment.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 10/22 – 11/04

Man who fatally punched Reno casino worker guilty of murder

A man with an extensive criminal history who fatally punched a Reno casino employee while trying to flee with gambling chips stolen from a blackjack table has been convicted of first-degree murder. A Washoe County jury found 65-year-old Frederick Borden guilty Thursday of murder, robbery and fraud in the Sept. 30, 2016 incident at the Eldorado casino. He also pleaded guilty Tuesday to grand larceny. Prosecutors say Boden was playing blackjack when he lost a bet and abruptly grabbed the chips he wagered and started to walk out of the building. An assistant shift manager, 52-year-old James Bryant, confronted him but Borden punched Bryant in the face. Bryant collapsed on the floor and was taken to a Reno hospital where died the next day.

$364M Ponzi scheme funded 3 men’s luxury lifestyles including $25M on casino gambling

Three men were indicted Wednesday for allegedly victimizing hundreds of people across the U.S. in a $364 million Ponzi scheme. Kevin Merrill, 53, of Maryland; Jay Ledford, 54, of Texas and Nevada; and Cameron Jezierski, 28, of Texas, were charged by federal prosecutors for an alleged scheme that dates back to January 2013. According to the U.S. Attorney Office for the District of Maryland, Merrill and Ledford invited people to buy consumer debt portfolios and falsely claimed that they’d profit from the debt payments. “Most of these investors are just learning that they have been victimized,” U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said in a news release. “The effects of this kind of fraud can be devastating.” The men concealed their diversion of $73 million in investors funds to host a “lavish lifestyle,” which included purchasing multiple properties, jewelry, more than 20 high-end cars and a boat, the attorney’s office alleged. The trio also allegedly spent some $25 million to gamble in casinos. Merrill, Ledford and Jezierski have been arrested and face a slew of charges, including conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

Former Hudson Valley Comptroller Embezzled $2.5 Million

A Hudson Valley man, employed by two local companies, embezzled over $2.5 million to fund his gambling and more. On Thursday, Mark Cina, 56, of Poughkeepsie was sentenced to 41 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion. “Mark Cina embezzled millions of dollars to line his pockets at the great expense and suffering of his trusting employer, a Hudson Valley entrepreneur and small businessman,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a press release. “Theft like the defendant’s is intolerable, and today’s sentencing shows that an employee’s choice to engage in such a crime is a choice to go to prison.” One company’s work included a solar-powered ring of lights encircling the top of MetLife Stadium. The other local company molded plastic. Cina had authority to sign checks for the companies and use the companies’ credit cards and ATM cards, officials say. Cina used stolen funds to gamble, pay his rent, drive rental cars, dine out, get his car washed, bail out an arrestee and pay a phone charge for an inmate’s call, court documents alleged.

Man dies of injuries from fight at Graton Casino

The Santa Rosa man who was attacked earlier this month at the Graton Casino has died of his injuries, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday. Sheriff’s officials identified the victim as Dondiego Hermilo Andrade, 55. But a member of Andrade’s extended family said he went by the name of Milo and that he was a longtime employee of Santa Rosa Junior College. The family member, who asked that his name not be used, described Andrade as a hardworking man and the sole breadwinner in his family. He said Andrade’s death has devastated the family. Morgan Lewis Jr., 44, of Lake County, was arrested after the violent altercation in the casino parking lot. According to the Sheriff’s Office, Lewis got into an argument with several men after the door of the SUV they were in struck his truck. Deputies arrived at the parking lot at 11:36 p.m. Sept. 15, but the fight already had ended. The Sheriff’s Office said deputies left the scene at 12:03 a.m. Sept. 16, but they were called back 10 minutes later after a report of another fight. Lori Nelson, a spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based Station Casinos, which operates the Graton Resort and Casino, could not be reached Sunday for comment.

Crooked Dealer Helped Players Cheat Casino for $1Million by Photographing Cards

If Phil Ivey’s infamous Baccarat edge-sorting schemes can be considered a bit unethical at best, then the dealer who helped scam a Maryland Casino out of over $1million has taken things a huge step further – pleading guilty to allowing players to photograph some of the cards… Ming Zhang, a Baccarat dealer from Alexandria, Virginia, now faces up to five years in prison for ‘one count of conspiring to transport stolen funds’, admitting to being paid by his card-cheating ‘conspirators’, according to Associated Press reports. Whereas Phil Ivey and his accomplice merely agreed rules with the casino which allowed them to ask their specially-chosen dealer to twist and turn the cards in various directions, in order for the patterns on the back to be read, Zhang’s case saw him expose the deck while a player actually photographed the cards.

The casino involved, believed to be the MGM National Harbor although it was not named in the court hearing, lost $1,046,560 as a result of the cheating last year, the players placing large bets at significant times using their dealer-fed knowledge of the decks. Assistant US Attorney Erin Pulice claimed that Baccarat players can predict the outcome “with near-perfect accuracy” if they know the order of cards in a deck. In Ivey’s case, winnings totalling around $20million were accrued between his infamous Crockford’s and Borgata edge-sorting visits, the courts in both sides of the Atlantic siding with the casinos. Ivey’s case, of course, in no way involved criminal behaviour – Zhang, on the other hand, was apparently involved in another similar cheating theft at a different Maryland casino last year, Zhang taking a payment of $1,000 and allegedly asking for more, before investigators confronted him about the dastardly scheme.

Couple charged in theft of more than $800,000 from Arizona water district

A husband and wife have been indicted on charges of conspiring with another man to embezzle $829,400 from the Silver Creek Irrigation District in northeast Arizona, the Navajo County’s Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday. The district manages water storage and conservation projects for 3,000 acres in the Snowflake, Taylor and Shumway communities in Navajo County. The Navajo County Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the Office of the Arizona Auditor General, conducted an investigation into records from August 2011 to December 2016. The investigation revealed Palmer wrote 546 Irrigation District checks to cash and gave them to Margaret Rogers, according to the Sheriff’s Office and Auditor General’s Office. Investigators said they could not determine the specific use of the money because it was in cash, but available records showed the money was most likely used for the couple’s personal expenses and Margaret Rogers’ gambling activity.

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