A tennis prodigy whose life was destroyed by a gambling addiction that cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars has been jailed for importing cocaine to pay off his huge debts. James Willesee, whose uncle is the journalist Mike Willesee, began gambling at 16, was once $500,000 in debt and eventually lost property worth $600,000 as well as his mother’s superannuation. Downing Centre District Court heard the 29-year-old from Sydney’s northern beaches also had the odd big win – taking home $1million when Fiorente saluted in the 2013 Melbourne Cup. Once his junior playing career ended Willesee coached tennis in the gambling mecca Hong Kong and for several years after that worked for Tabcorp as a betting analyst. Having got himself deep into debt, Willesee took part in a $1.5million cocaine importation operation in which he had more than 5kg of the drug delivered to a prestigious Sydney golf club. Judge Robyn Tupman described Willesee’s gambling addiction as ‘the curse of his life and the cause of his ultimate downfall and the position he now finds himself.’ ‘Mr Willesee’s case is a tragic one,’ Judge Tupman said. ‘In my view the gambling industry has a lot to answer for in the way it overwhelmingly connects itself to mainstream sport in Australia. ‘The vulnerable in the community are significantly at risk of doing exactly what this person did.’
While a former Porter County officer is asking for a probation, the government is seeking prison time for his embezzlement of more than $180,000 from a police organization. Lawrence LaFlower, 43, pleaded guilty in October to one count of wire fraud for taking thousands of dollars from the Fraternal Order of Police Ewalt Jahnz Lodge No.165 in Valparaiso where he was the treasurer to support his gambling addiction, court records state. “LaFlower squandered over $180,000, much of which was donated from the generous contributions of hard working police officers and private citizens,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Abizer Zanzi said in court records. The FOP works to improve working conditions of police officers and does philanthropic work, including scholarships for students interested in careers in criminal justice and school supplies for students in need, Zanzi said. This was not a “momentary lapse in judgment” by LaFlower, according to Zanzi.
A Unity woman is accused of leaving her 10-year-old daughter alone inside a car in the Rivers Casino parking garage in Pittsburgh for more than six hours while she went inside to gamble. According to state police Sgt. Gerald Pflug, authorities plan to charge Nicole Marie Inks, 36, with endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment. The child was left alone in a car inside the parking garage about 8:40 p.m. Sunday, Pflug said. The child called 911 about 4 a.m. Monday to say her mom had left her. Inks told police that she initially went into the casino to buy a gift card and lost track of time. Inks was gambling when officials found her, Pflug said. It’s not the first time Inks has been in trouble in connection with gambling at Rivers Casino. She was arrested in January for allegedly stealing $1,346 from the Salem Township Subway restaurant where she worked on New Year’s Day and gambling away some of the stolen money at the casino.
Chris Girling recently pleaded guilty to embezzling £1 million ($1.26 million) from the Premier Education Group, a company that provides physical education programs to schools across the UK. As the man in charge of the company’s accounts and finances, he was well positioned to pilfer as much cash as he wanted. *“When I printed off those first lots of bank statements, I had to run to the toilet to be sick because that’s the first time I really knew how much I’d stolen,”* Girling told ITV News. For a period of more than three years, starting in March of 2014, Girling was moving money from company accounts to his own personal accounts. Every morning, he’d wake up and start playing the virtual slots – $125 per spin every few seconds – sometimes blowing more than $20,000 in a day. “It’s a silent addiction,” notes Girling, who is facing up to five years in jail. “You can do it on your phone all day every day. You could quite easily walk past someone in the street who has it.
An armed man died after being shot Tuesday by two Green Valley Ranch security guards, police said. The man was walking through the casino at about 3:40 p.m. when patrons notified security that he was carrying a handgun, Henderson Police Department Lt. Kirk Moore said. The man was confronted by three security guards in the east tower lobby, where the man reportedly drew his weapon, Moore said. Two of the guards shot at the man, who received medical attention at the casino but later died. No one else was injured and the casino was not evacuated. Moore said details were unknown about how many shots were fired or whether the man fired his weapon. The man’s identity will be released after his family is notified, Moore said.
Kelsi Costa had a bad feeling as soon as she saw the car. “I had to say something,” the Cumberland native thought as she walked into Twin River Casino nearly two years ago. Costa and her mother spotted the vehicle, engine running, parked near the back of the casino parking lot. Inside the car, officers said, were an 11-year-old, a 3-year-old and an infant. “If I was a parent, I could never, would never do that,” Costa said. Police later determined the parents left their children alone for almost two hours while they gambled inside Twin River. The Woonsocket couple was charged with neglect, although the charges were eventually dropped because, according to police records, “there hasn’t been any habitual offenses with the family on record.”
Through multiple open record requests, Boston 25 News discovered 14 incidents of children left unattended at Twin River in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Massachusetts since 2016. With MGM Springfield opening last August, and Encore Boston Harbor launching in Everett this spring, advocates are wary of what an influx of casinos could mean for families across New England, particularly families dealing with a gambling addiction. “Leaving children unattended in a car at a gaming facility would be a huge red flag,” for signs of addiction, said Marlene Warner, the executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. “Kids don’t belong in a casino. Plain and simple,” Warner said. “A casino you’re not just running in for something. You’re running in and inevitably you’re going to spend more time than you think.”
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