A Brief Look at Crime 01/14 – 01/20

Two Kelowna women charged with stealing $180K from Okanagan hospice 

The Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA), whose mandate is to offer care, comfort and support for the dying, is under the microscope now that two former employees have been charged with fraud and theft. A little more than a year ago, Global Okanagan was first to report that more than $180,000 had gone missing from COHA’s coffers between 2015 and 2017. The RCMP launched an investigation into the missing funds, resulting in charges against the former executive director of COHA and the office manager. According to court documents, on Sept. 12, 2012, Susan Steen allegedly defrauded COHA of $71 by making a false claim for a cellphone expense. Steen is also accused of stealing more than $109,000 from COHA between July 2012 and April 2016, allegedly using the hospice’s credit card. COHA’s officer manager, Melanie Gray, is accused of stealing $69,000 between February 2013 and November 2015 by using the hospice’s credit card. Neither currently work for the hospice association. Global News contacted Steen, who admits she made mistakes and that she was dealing with a gambling problem. “A profound gambling problem, actually,” she said over the phone. Steen says she began gambling when she moved from Ontario to Kelowna in 2010, that it was her way of dealing with stress associated with an ailing mother, a broken marriage and health issues. As she puts it, the casino was her calm place.

Accused sweetheart swindler found guilty of scamming elderly out of $1.6 million 

A sweetheart swindler who prosecutors say used a web of lies, including that she had cancer, to scam more than $1.6 million from six elderly people was found guilty Thursday . Jurors deliberated about an hour and a half before finding Desiree Boltos, 37, guilty on five counts of theft and one count of exploitation of an elderly person. The punishment phase of the trial began immediately after the verdict was read but was later recessed to be continued Friday. She faces up to life in prison. Prosecutors said Boltos teamed up with her common-law husband to con the elderly victims between December 2011 and May 2017 in a con scheme commonly referred to a sweetheart swindler. Her husband, Paul Hill, is also charged in the case and is awaiting trial. The victims were conned in a variety of ways, prosecutors say. Some thought they were investing in Boltos’ interior design business — a business that didn’t exist — while another believed he was helping pay legal fees and travel expenses for Boltos to obtain a multi-million dollar inheritance. Danny Ray Barnett, who has since died, married Boltos not knowing that she was already married by common law to another man and gave her money, believing she had cancer and needed it for treatment. Casino records showed Boltos spent a great deal of the money in casinos, testimony showed.

Las Vegas Exec Who Subsidized Gambling with $1.5 Billion Ponzi Scheme Guilty of Fraud 

A Las Vegas CEO who funded a luxury gambling lifestyle through a $1.5 billion Ponzi scheme was found guilty of fraud and money laundering by a jury in Nevada on Tuesday. Japanese-American Edwin Fujinaga, 72, bilked thousands of mainly Japanese citizens into investing into his company MRI International. Investors believed they were plowing their money into a firm that purchased unpaid medical accounts from health care providers at knock-down prices before collecting payments from insurance companies. They were hoodwinked by glossy brochures and marketing campaigns in leading business magazines that promised 6 to 9.6 percent returns in Japanese yen and 6.5 to 10.3 percent in US dollars over two to five years. For Japanese savers frustrated by years of domestic baseline interest rates, it was a tempting offer. But it was all a sham. Despite its impressive Las Vegas headquarters and a sales office in Tokyo, MRI was nothing more than a classic Ponzi scheme.

Gambler Gets Life Sentence for Punch That Killed Reno Eldorado Casino Manager 

A Reno gambler who went from being just another a sore loser to a murderer in a matter of a few catastrophic minutes will spend the rest of his life in prison. Frederick Douglas Borden, 65, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on Wednesday for landing a fatal punch on a manager at the Eldorado Casino. In September, Borden was convicted of the first-degree murder of 52-year-old Eldorado assistant shift manager James Bryant in 2016. He was also convicted of robbery and of committing fraudulent acts concerning gaming. According to the DA’s office, in September 2016, Borden was gambling at a blackjack table at the Reno casino when he lost all his chips — and something snapped. As the dealer was dragging them in, Borden lunged forward and grabbed back as many as he could before making a break for it. Bryant tried to stop Borden from leaving but was punched in the face and collapsed as Borden fled the casino. Bryant was taken to hospital but died two days later from a torn right vertebral artery.

Man shot multiple times outside Tachi Palace casino after fight

A man was shot multiple times following a fight at Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, the Kings County Sheriff’s Office said. The fight happened just before midnight Friday. Casino security officers tried to break up a fight among three men and were able to detain one of them. The other two ran away and continued fighting. Then one of them, identified as Jose Leon, took out a gun from his waistband and shot a man by the name of Alfonso Gonzalez several times, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. Casino surveillance personnel tracked down Leon after the shooting. They watched as he made a call and was eventually picked up by his sister at a gas station, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The two drove a distance before deputies caught up to them and took them into custody. Detectives interviewed them and later arrested Leon for violating his parole and for alleged attempted murder. Leon’s sister and another man were released after being questioned.

Woman embezzled millions from Inola company, prosecutors say as they go after her Grand Lake condo and yacht

A Broken Arrow businesswoman embezzled $3.1 million from her former employer and spent the proceeds on a yacht, a Grand Lake condo, casino gambling and other personal and family expenses, federal prosecutors allege. Cristyne Denise Gilleland, 41, faces one count of wire fraud and one count of subscribing a false tax return. The charges were filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma but were not made public until Monday. Gilleland, who is not in custody, is alleged to have embezzled the money from 2010 to 2017 while working for TJT Enterprises LLC, an Inola-based company owned by Tommy Thompson, records show. “White collar crimes can be devastating to victims,” U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said Monday night. “Fraudsters, embezzlers, and the financially corrupt must be held accountable.

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