Monthly Archives: April 2019

Sports Betting and Other Major Provisions in the Florida Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe Could Prevent Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renegotiated the expired portion of the Seminole Gambling Compact. Several attempts have been made over the past few legislative sessions, but nothing has been established and they have been acting in good faith since.  As this year’s session approaches its end, the efforts to finalize a new compact have strengthened. As previously explainedit was suggested that sports gambling could be legalized in Florida without needing to involve a vote of the people. Tribal gambling is not regulated in the same way, so if they were to offer it, its believed that it could be a way to work around the need for voter approval. Florida Politics online explains:

Simpson acknowledged last week that the concept of allowing the tribe to run sports books at the state’s dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons was intended to sidestep a constitutional amendment that passed in November requiring statewide votes on citizens’ initiatives that would expand casino-type gambling.

But [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, indicated the constitutional amendment adds another layer of analysis to an already-complicated legal deal that also encompasses serious policy-making decisions.

“Obviously, me and my staff we’re going through it, looking substantively (at) what it means, but also legally. As you know, there’s a lot of legalities that are involved in this. There is just a (constitutional) amendment that passed. You know, the question, does it apply to the tribe? Does it apply to this or that? So there’s a whole host of things I think that need to be vetted through, but prior to yesterday I had not seen the outline. We have it now and are going through it,” DeSantis said.

This sports betting provision in general, however, is being set up in a way that Florida Gov Ron DeSantis believes could cause problems. Florida Politics continues:

With time already an enemy, Gov. Ron DeSantis injected more uncertainty Tuesday into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, suggesting its passage would be too heavy a “legislative lift.”

The governor said he and his staff have begun scrutinizing “a draft outline” of the agreement, which would open the door for sports betting in Florida, with the tribe acting as a “hub” for sports betting at the state’s pari-mutuels.

But the Republican governor appeared skeptical of some sports-betting provisions in the deal, which reportedly also would permit in-play betting at professional sports arenas.

The manner in which sports betting is set up “could really affect the integrity of the games,” said DeSantis, who, as an undergraduate played baseball for Yale University.

“If I can place a wager on whether the first pitch of a game is going to be a strike or not, well, hell, that’s a big moral hazard, because that’s not necessarily something that would affect the total outcome,” he added.

Clearly sports betting has its own set of issues, but that’s not the only sticking point for a successful compact. Designated player games also need addressed given the temporary agreement expires after May of this year. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

But some issues opposed by pari-mutuels could imperil the deal’s success in the House, several lobbyists said.

Controversial “designated player” games offered at many of the state’s pari-mutuel cardrooms are a key element of the deal. The Seminoles — and a federal judge — have maintained that the card games violate a 2010 gambling agreement with the state that gave the tribe “exclusivity” over offering banked card games, such as blackjack.

Amid the dispute about designated player games, former Gov. Rick Scott entered an agreement with the tribe in which the Seminoles have continued to pay about $350 million a year to the state, which pledged to “aggressively enforce” how the games are played. But that agreement expires on May 31, and the House and Senate have not included the revenue in next year’s budget.

The deal under discussion would severely alter the way the card games are being played, making them virtually unprofitable for pari-mutuel cardrooms, sources said.

House Speaker José Oliva told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday afternoon that he had seen a “brief outline” of the gambling proposal.

The issues don’t stop there either. There are discussions to decouple horse racing in the same way dog racing was decoupled by the voters last election as well as other intertwined gambling issues. At the end of the day, Gov. DeSantis thinks it could simply be too many issues with too many parties to come to an agreement in time. The Tamp Bay Times continues:

To appease the pari-mutuels about the changes to the designed player games, the proposed agreement would also allow horse tracks to do away with horse races, while keeping lucrative activities like cardrooms and slot machines, which are legal at tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It is unclear whether such “decoupling” would also apply to jai alai frontons. Dog tracks are already allowed to drop greyhound races, thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in November.

The pari-mutuels would also be able to operate sports books, with a cut going to the tribe, but the profits from sports betting wouldn’t offset the losses from the changes in the designated player games, according to industry experts.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles would be able to add craps and roulette to other gambling activities currently underway at the tribe’s casinos. The tribe would agree to pay about $400 million a year to the state, an amount that could gradually increase to about $500 million a year. That’s a boost from the current revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe, but far less than what legislative leaders had originally envisioned.

The decisions by the House and Senate to not include the tribe’s annual payments in their budget proposals takes some pressure off negotiators as lawmakers work to hammer out a final budget in the coming days.

Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday afternoon told the News Service that Simpson was continuing to work on the gambling deal, which the president said was still in play.

But with just a week-and-a-half left before the legislative session is slated to end, DeSantis hinted that passage of a compact would be extremely difficult. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 4/15 – 4/21

Admitted College Embezzler Negotiates with State 

It’s been over a year and no charges have been filed against Henrietta Trujillo. The former Northern New Mexico College finance director resigned her position in March 2017 and provided her supervisor with a box of evidence detailing how she allegedly kept over $200,00 from the College. New Mexico State Police Agent Mitch Bengston found that Trujillo withheld $249,243 from deposits for the College, of that $92,852 was in checks that were deposited later or replaced and $167,433 was in checks that were not deposited. A total of $81,910 in cash was missing. Trujillo confessed to Bengston that when she “could not make ends meet” she began to take the deposits from the safe and would keep the cash. She told him she stored the checks and the deposit sheets in a box in her closet at her Santa Fe home. Bengston reviewed various financial documents with Trujillo, and throughout the process also asked her about her gambling habits. Trujillo told Bengston she did not feel that she had a gambling problem, and that she believed her casino spending was limited to less than $100 per visit, two to three times per week. State Police Agent Wayne Harvey obtained records from the Pueblo of Pojoaque related to Trujillo’s gambling habits and found a total of $519,817 was spent using her player card between 2007 and 2016.

North Florida Bingo Operators Ordered to Forfeit $5.8 Million Due to Illegal Gambling Operation

Striking a blow against illegal gambling operators who profit behind a facade of good causes, U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe for the Northern District of Florida today announced that the owners/operators of Racetrack Bingo in Fort Walton Beach have been ordered to forfeit $5,813,584 to the United States. In February 2018, a federal jury convicted Larry L. Masino, 68, of Gulf Breeze, and Dixie L. Masino, 66, of Pensacola, of operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicia H. Forbes prosecuted the Masinos after a joint investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. U.S. Attorney Keefe issued this statement: “The investigation and prosecution of financial crimes joins the criminal and civil enforcement resources of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement. This multimillion-dollar forfeiture order delivers a powerful message to law breakers who would try to reap millions destined for legitimate charitable organizations. Thanks to the outstanding work of AUSA Forbes and her investigative team, these criminals will pay for their misdeeds.”

Vegas Man Killed by Police in Casino Heist

Authorities have identified a 49-year-old man who was shot and killed by police while exchanging gunfire as he tried to flee a weekend robbery at a posh Las Vegas Strip casino. The Clark County coroner says Michael Charles Cohen of Las Vegas died of a gunshot to the head after the Saturday evening shooting in the valet parking area at the Bellagio resort. Police Capt. Nichole Splinter says an officer was injured by a gunshot that hit his bulletproof vest. He was treated at a hospital and released. His name was not immediately released. Joaquin Escobar is identified as the officer who shot Cohen. Splinter says Cohen fled the casino poker room and was trying to carjack a vehicle when he was confronted by four Las Vegas police officers and gunfire erupted.

3 arrested in Las Vegas casino shooting that wounded 4

Las Vegas police say three men have been arrested in connection with a shooting at a hotel-casino that left four people wounded. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that court records show 35-year-old Travis Callahan, 34-year-old Matthew Norris and 30-year-old Roberto Romero are expected to make initial appearances before a judge Monday. According to authorities, officers responded to reports of a shooting around 1:45 a.m. Sunday at the El Cortez. They located four victims with gunshot wounds. One was hospitalized in critical condition. The other three had non-life-threatening injuries. Police say the shooting appeared to be the result of a dispute on the hotel’s fifth floor. The three suspects face charges including four counts each of attempted murder. It was not immediately known if any of them had attorneys.

Racine woman who stole $775,000 from two dozen estates gets 21-month sentence

Kathleen Fetek, who stole more than $775,000 from clients of her father’s Racine law firm, was sentenced to 21 months in prison Wednesday — a penalty that is about half the minimum recommended in federal sentencing guidelines. “My public defender clients get a lot more time for stealing a lot less,” said Jakelyn Karabetsos, who appeared at the Fetek sentencing hearing on behalf of one of the more than 100 individual victims of Fetek’s scheme that ran for three years. Fetek, 56, earlier pleaded guilty to fraud for pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars that were earmarked for the beneficiaries of about two dozen estates being administered by her father’s law firm. Fetek’s scheme was relatively simple. Fetek “wrote checks to herself approximately 225 times over a 27-month period,” federal prosecutor Richard Frohling wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “On each occasion, she had to change a payee or forge a signature, typically impersonating her mother. She cashed checks at banks, liquor stores and other locations.”

Much of the money was spent on gambling and cocaine, the lawyers said. “She didn’t seem to steal it to live lavishly,” Adelman said, adding she did not “buy a yacht.” Frohling’s memorandum noted that “she was at the highest tier of gamblers at the (Potawatomi) casino, receiving free food, drinks, rooms and a personal casino host.” Frohling worte, “Ms Fetek’s status at the casino is not surprising given that she lost over $212,000 there in 2015 and 2016 alone.”

Lawyer Sentenced to 8 Years, Ordered to Repay $1.3 M

A Kentucky lawyer who admitted to pocketing more than $1.3 million from clients to pay personal expenses that included gambling losses has been sentenced to eight years in prison. A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Friday says Danny Butler of Campbellsville also was ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution. Butler pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Bowling Green to five counts of wire fraud for obtaining money from clients for legal work he didn’t do and to stealing money from estates. Federal prosecutors said he lived an extravagant lifestyle and ran up gambling losses of $1.5 million. The scheme unraveled when two brothers waiting for proceeds of an estate contacted authorities about Butler’s continued excuses for not turning over the money.

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

DOJ Seeks to get State Online Lottery Lawsuit Dropped

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Department of Justice’s reversal of the Wire Act and that decision’s impact on online gambling. Many said lawsuits would be the deciding fact as to whether or not they could reverse the out of place Obama Administration’s reinterpretation of the wire act, which lead to the massive expansion of online gambling. One area of concern for states has been the impact on state lotteries, specifically where those state offer online access to their lotteries. The DOJ recently extended the deadline as they wanted to more closely examine the full range of its ruling. The DOJ is now seeking a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by New Hampshire claiming they don’t have standing to sue yet and that the state hasn’t proven that the ruling would even impact them. The Associated Press explains: 

The U.S. Justice Department says in a federal court brief that the New Hampshire Lottery Commission has failed to demonstrate that it wouldn’t be immune from 1960s law enacted to crack down on the mob.

On Thursday, the Justice Department filed the brief in Concord, New Hampshire, in response to a judge’s order for it to clarify its interpretation of the Wire Act. States fear losing at least $220 million annually in lottery profits if the Wire Act is determined to apply to all forms of gambling that crosses state lines.

The department also affirmed any early promise to not prosecute state lotteries or their vendors while it continues to review whether the Wire Act applies to lotteries.

The concern goes beyond the state of New Hampshire. Several states offer online access to their lotteries and some lotteries extent to multiple states. Some believe the intent of the DOJ isn’t to stop lotteries, as Powerball and Mega Millions are too engrained as a societal norm, but the actual transactions might very well fit the original 1960 Wire Act. An online source explains: 

The states are anxiously waiting on a clarification from the Justice Department about its opinion that, if strictly interpreted, would outlaw lottery tickets sold online and prohibit all lottery-related activities that use the internet. Legal experts say Powerball and Mega Millions are at risk if the opinion is read to the letter, which would cost the states billions. 

Seven states now sell lottery tickets online and others offer residents internet-based lottery subscription services.

When state lotteries use the internet to transmit data for online ticket sales, the network signal can cross state lines, and games that are played in multiple state s, like Powerball and Mega Millions, transmit data to a central database out of state, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 4/08 – 4/14

Search warrant served at game room, scene of deadly 2018 officer involved shooting

On January 31, a confidential associate of the Lubbock Police department went into Fish Room with money to gamble and left receiving a cash payout. On February 5, the associate returned and received another cash payout totaling $150. Under Texas Penal Code Chapter 47, Operating a public “gambling place,” is illegal in the state and punishable as a class A misdemeanor. Several possible pieces of evidence were obtained in the search warrant, including DVR machines, money counters, 100 electronic gambling devices and more than $5,500 in cash. Police were cautious approaching this operation because of a history of violence when responding to game rooms, specifically at this location. On August 13, 2018, an armed robbery took place at this establishment, formerly the Coyote Moon game room, in the 3900 block of Avenue A in which an officer was injured, and one suspect was shot. 20-year-old Isaac Jackson and 20-year-old Jelani Ashley attempted to rob the Coyote Moon game room when police responded. Jackson was shot by officers. Ashley ran from the scene but was apprehended by the Texas Anti-Gang Center at his home days later.

Ex-sheriff admits taking bribes; could get 15-year sentence 

An Ohio sheriff who resigned amid an FBI investigation has pleaded guilty to taking bribes from people arrested in prostitution and gambling stings. Authorities say former Allen County sheriff Sam Crish also took $50,000 from someone who was later hired to work at the county jail. Crish pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to extortion and bribery. He faces up to 15 years in prison. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney. Authorities say Crish extorted almost $100,000 from five people between 2012 and 2016. Investigators say he helped others avoid charges in return for the money. Crish resigned as sheriff in 2017 following an FBI raid. The Lima News reports Crish once sought treatment for compulsive gambling and that he has faced lawsuits over gambling debts.

Mum gambled away £100,000 from dying son’s cancer fund

The mother of a little boy who died from cancer is facing jail after defrauding £100,000 from a fund set up to pay for his treatment. Stacey Worsley, 32, abused her position as a trustee for six-year-old Tony Nye’s fund-raising campaign and spent the money on online gambling, a court heard. The fund raised £200,000 and was supported by friends and players from Leeds United football club who the youngster supported. Toby had been diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma on his fourth birthday in January 2017 and an appeal was started to raise money for his expensive treatment which was not available on the NHS. Early testing after treatment showed his bone marrow was clear of cancer in July 2018, the court heard. Tragically he was then diagnosed with a brain tumour in October last year and died on 12 January 2019. Toby walked out as a mascot for his beloved football team during a charity football match, met the players from Leeds United and regularly spent time with club captain, Liam Cooper while he battled the disease. Worsley’s offences happened between 2 January 2017 and 20 March 2018, Leeds Crown Court heard. She admitted defrauding the fund in court yesterday.

California man’s luck runs out as he must fork over $90K for gambling online using N.J. betting sites

New Jersey gambling regulators have ordered a California man to hand over more than $90,000 from online accounts he had funded and gambled with from outside the state in what appears to be the largest such case in the more than five years internet betting has been legal in New Jersey. The state Division of Gaming Enforcement said this week that Vinh Dao, whose hometown was not made public, violated New Jersey law requiring that internet betting be done only by those physically within the state’s borders. Due to his cooperation and to negotiate an end to the case, which began more than five years ago, the state agreed to let Dao keep $2,500 of the nearly $93,000 that was in his online accounts with sites affiliated with the Borgata and Caesars Interactive-NJ. The case dates to February 2014, just three months after internet gambling began in New Jersey, a time when geolocation technology was still developing and being adjusted in the state. The casino companies that allowed Dao to gamble online from outside New Jersey could be subject to fines. The Borgata declined comment; Caesars Interactive said it would look into the details of the case, but did not address potential penalties, and regulators did not respond to questions about the case Wednesday. The forfeited money will be split between a fund for senior citizens and the disabled, and programs to prevent or treat compulsive gambling.

Ex-Detroit union leader gets prison for stealing $300,000

A labor leader who liked to gamble at a Detroit casino has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for embezzling $300,000 from his union. Authorities say Mervin Hawk actually stole $630,000 from AFSCME Local 1640, but he returned a portion before the scheme was discovered. The 59-year-old Hawk appeared in federal court Thursday, apologizing and acknowledging that he “let a lot of folks down.” Both sides acknowledge he had a gambling problem. Hawk was president of Local 1640 from 2013 through 2015. AFSCME stands for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Hawk’s attorney asked for home detention. Natasha Webster doubts the federal prison system can handle Hawk’s diabetes-related health problems. But Judge Gershwin Drain says the Bureau of Prisons is capable.

$1M seized from Phoenix pool halls suspected of gambling 

Authorities say they have seized nearly $1 million in cash from two Phoenix billiard halls suspected of illegal gambling activity. The Arizona Department of Gaming said Friday the seizure was the result of search warrants executed by a multi-agency task force. State gaming agents entered Lan Anh Billiards and Thanh Long Billiards on Thursday and took seven Dragon games, which are illegal gambling devices, and other assets. The suspects could face felony charges, including the conducting of a criminal enterprise.

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

Missouri’s Largest Gambling Expansion Proposal Since Casino Legalization Emerges in the House

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various gambling proposals and changes in the Missouri gambling landscape, but this proposal might be the most shocking. The Missouri constitution was amended to allow gambling on riverboats by the voters back in 1994 and since that time, the qualifications for river boat gambling has drastically expanded. Its started as actual river boats that traveled up and down the rivers for a two hour period, but now no time or monetary limits exist and gamblers walk into full scale buildings up to 25 feet off the river bank (albeit with a tiny amount of river water with a tiny amount of river water pumped underneath them as to technically make them water craft). Even still, gambling has always been limited to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Now a bill has been proposed in the Missouri house that is so radical, it’s not an exaggeration to call it the largest and most problematic expansion of gambling the state has ever seen. An online source explains:

“This irresponsible bill would permit slot machines on every street corner where a restaurant, bar, convenience store or truck stop is located,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. “These machines look and play just like slot machines. If this bill passes, we can expect to see them in every city, town or community across the state. Missouri could very quickly have more slot machines outside of casinos than inside them.”

“This is not what Missouri voters envisioned when they voted to approve casino wagering in Missouri,” Winter said. “Voters were very careful to restrict casinos to certain locations and to limit the number of casinos.”

The bill would bypass a vote by Missouri residents, who first authorized casinos by ballot initiative in 1994 and also voted to limit the number of casinos to 13 in 2008.

Not only does the bill drastically expand gambling, it seemingly bypassing regulation by the Missouri gambling commission and it leaves vulnerable those people and families who could be most impact by gambling addiction. The source continues:

If passed, the proposed gambling expansion is expected to heavily impact rural areas throughout the state. The same towns and cities that opposed casinos in their communities could suddenly see hundreds of slot machines in family restaurants, convenience stores and other retail establishments.

HB 423 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from playing lottery slot machines but oversight would be minimal as compared to the strict rules that regulate casinos. Busy retailers with machines on their premises would be solely responsible for monitoring their use.

“The proposed regulations, security and oversight are simply inadequate,” Winter said. “This gambling expansion would bypass not only our state’s voters but also our strong gaming commission, which establishes and enforces strict gambling regulations in our casinos.”

Missouri casinos and the Missouri Gaming Association provide a full range of programs to promote responsible gaming and to help those who have a gambling problem. Retailers hosting lottery slot machines would not be required to provide similar responsible gaming education.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 4/01 – 4/07

Wynn Gets Hit With $20 Million Fine By Nevada Gaming Control Board 

Wynn Resorts put on its best face in front of commissioners of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Earlier this month Wynn Resorts entered into a settlement with the gaming regulator, admitting to covering up multiple allegations and settlements with employees who were sexually harassed over decades. Commissioner John T. Moran, Jr. Commissioner for the Nevada Gaming Control Board said of the Wynn contingent gathered for the hearing, “/The people who caused this are not here … but the people here have to pick up the train wreck./” That train wreck will cost Wynn a record, amount as Moran echoed the thoughts of his fellow commissioners, “/I can support a $20 million penalty/.” Moran also acknowledged, “/We gotta get back to work/,” referring to putting this settlement behind both the Control Board and Wynn. For its part, Wynn sent CEO Matt Maddox and Chairman Phil Satre to take the blows on behalf of the company. Wynn has overhauled its board of directors and has fired (golden parachuted) a number of senior executives including former general counsel Kim Sinatra.

The settlement with Wynn stated a pattern of sexual harassment cases that had been privately settled and, more disturbing, covered up by the most senior executives at the company. There were also noted instances of management who “/facilitated sexual relationships between cocktail servers at Wynn Las Vegas and Mr. Wynn./” Steve Wynn, the co-founder of the company and its chairman / CEO resigned last year after a shocking Wall Street Journal Report that detailed a number of sexual harassment allegations by former employees. Mr. Wynn subsequently sold all shares of Wynn and no longer has any relationship with the company … other than the name.

Ex-County Official Gets 4 Years in Prison for Stealing $6.7M

A former county official from a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., has been sentenced to four years in prison for embezzling more than $6.7 million in government funds. Peter Bang, who was the chief operating officer of Montgomery County’s economic development department, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis. The judge didn’t immediately rule on any restitution or forfeiture owed by Bang, a 59-year-old resident of Germantown. Bang pleaded guilty in November to both federal and state criminal charges. He faces a March 7 sentencing hearing for the state convictions. Prosecutors say he used most of the stolen money to feed a gambling addiction. U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said in a statement that the embezzled money could have been used for schools, libraries and other county expenditures.

Accountant Allegedly Stole $2 Million from New Orleans Firefighters’ Pension

“Wayne Triche devised and intended to devise a scheme to defraud the New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund (NOFPRF), and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises,” according to the grand jury charges. The indictment cited 34 unauthorized transactions totaling more than $1.8 million between 2013 and 2016. NOFPRF provided $5 million to American Pension Consultants (APC), a company Triche co-founded in 2002, so that the firm could purchase life insurance policies on the fund’s behalf. A promissory note restricted the use of funds from NOFPRF to the purchase of life insurance settlements and administrative expenses up to $119,000, and a payment to APC of $250,000. No other compensation to Triche was allowed per the promissory note. The charges allege that Triche siphoned funds belonging to the NOFPRF by transferring money held in bank accounts belonging to APC to accounts he personally controlled. It claimed the money was used for “payment of a civil judgment, gambling, home improvements, credit card payments, and living expenses.”

B.C. woman with gambling habit pleads guilty to embezzling $1.2 million from Calgary employer

When she was finally caught after stealing $1.2 million from her Calgary employer over a six-year period, Kelowna, B.C., resident Colleen Dhuga blamed a gambling addiction. Dhuga, 50, pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud over $5,000 on Monday. “I see you have discovered my gambling habit,” said Dhuga when confronted by her employer in 2014. Dhuga admitted to forging cheques and stealing from company credit cards between June 2008 and March 2014. According to her financial records, Dhuga used the money at casinos, on travel, dining and other personal expenses. The details of Dhuga’s crimes come from an agreed statement of facts read aloud by prosecutor Shelley Smith. The thefts first came to light in 2014 when the Royal Bank of Canada noted unusual activity on the accounts. Dhuga was initially hired by David Anderson as a bookkeeper in 1995 but her role evolved into controller for his group of companies, which included Winsome Capital Inc., EmberClear Inc., Winsome Oil Marketing and Immersive Media Corp. Over the six-year period, Dhuga forged 185 cheques using a stamp with Anderson’s signature and depositing the money in her personal bank account. She also made 482 withdrawals from three corporate credit cards belonging to Anderson’s companies. She tried to cover up her crimes by telling the companies’ receptionist not to open any mail from the bank.

Former NFL player Pacman Jones arrested at Indiana casino

Former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam ”Pacman” Jones has been arrested and jailed after an incident at a southeastern Indiana casino. The Indiana Gaming Commission says Jones was arrested for disorderly conduct, public intoxication, intimidation, and resisting arrest early Wednesday at the Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun, Indiana, located about 25 miles southwest of Cincinnati. The commission says its agents were called to the casino ”to investigate a patron for possible cheating at a table game.” It says the 35-year-old Jones ”immediately became verbally combative and disorderly with agents and casino staff.” Jones was incarcerated at the Dearborn County Jail in nearby Lawrenceburg. Jones, a one-time Pro Bowler, spent eight seasons with the Bengals. He also played for the Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. Jones pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge after a 2017 confrontation with hotel security personnel and an obscenity-filled tirade against arresting police officers in Cincinnati.

Ex-postal manager pleads guilty to stealing $630K in stamps

A former manager of a post office in a New Orleans suburb has admitted to stealing more than $630,000 in stamps and selling them online to support his gambling addiction, prosecutors said. Ryan Cortez, 46, pleaded guilty on Friday to misappropriation of postal funds in one of the largest internal postal thefts in U.S. Postal Service history, news outlets reported, citing a statement that U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser’s Office released Tuesday. Cortez was a manager at the North Kenner Post Office. Authorities had a warrant to search the Des Allemands resident’s home in October and arrested him after they found evidence connecting him to the ordering of the stamps. Investigators determined Cortez had increased the post office’s usual $70,000 in reserve stamps by more than $600,000. Internal controls had failed to detect the stamp thefts because he used another supervisor’s password to access the computer system. Cortez withdrew thousands of dollars regularly at the Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans, investigators said. Harrah’s records revealed he lost more than $667,000 since 2011, losing over $220,000 in 2017. Postal records show his annual salary was $70,818.

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

Tribal Casino Sues Video Gaming Company over Illegal Loot Box Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of the new gambling mechanic in video games know as loot boxes. This mechanic works by having players purchase boxes full of mystery items in video games. These boxes often cost real world money and the items coming out of the box can be garden variety or fairly useless in game items all the way to very powerful weapons or items that give players a leg up. There have been may instances where these items hold real world value and some examples exist of those items being sold for real money. So the player puts money in the game, pulls the box open lever, gets a random prize of various value and then the player trades those in for real world money, very possibly at a financial gain. Many would argue that the mechanic described is the same as gambling on a slot machine, and that’s the very foundation of for a tribal casino’s lawsuit is video game manufacture.   An online source explains how such a lawsuit could be brought forth: 

The Quinault Indian Nation has filed a lawsuit against Valve, the makers of Steam, claiming that it is running an unlicensed gambling operation and demanding payment for damages.

Okay, this gets a little complicated so settle in. The Quinault Indian Nation owns and operates a licensed casino in the state of Washington, one that is regulated by the Washington Gaming Commission. Valve is also based in Washington.

In its suit against Valve (via Geekwire), the Quinault Nation alleges that “Valve facilitated illegal, unregulated and unlicensed online gambling” when it launched skins for /Counter-Strike: Global Offensive /(/CS:GO/).

Back in 2013, Valve started releasing skins for weapons in /CS:GO/, these upgrades are purely cosmetic. Players would earn crates by playing /CS:GO /and these crates could then be opened with keys which Valve sold in its store. The keys were the only way to open the crates, and it made Valve a tidy bit of cash.

The Quinault Nation says that “the look, feel, sound and experience [of opening a crate] was basically an online slot machine”, providing YouTube footage of players opening crates to back up its claim.

What’s particularly striking in this case, is that seemingly at every level of the transaction, Value, the company being sued by Quinault Indian Nation, had their hand in guiding the process. An online source explains:

It points to the skin gambling sites that were launching and says Valve did nothing to stop them. “Valve had actual knowledge of the identity of the Valve accounts that gambling websites used to effectuate gambling transactions, and chose not to take any action against them,” the court documents state.

It goes on to claim that “Valve allowed gambling websites to use Valve accounts on Valve’s servers and Valve’s computers to effectuate gambling transactions” and that “Valve also provided technical support to gambling websites and real-money cash out websites, despite those websites violating Valve’s Steam Subscriber Agreement, and would return control of gambling websites’ Valve accounts back to the gambling website after being hijacked or hacked by other third parties.”

Despite simply providing an incredibly clear picture for those legislative and consumer protection bodies looking to best understand just how much these loot boxes are no different from gambling, the tribe also outlines exactly how it hurts not only their business with the State, but how doing so illegally without following state regulation further harms those involved. They conclude: 

The Nation has a contract with the State of Washington that means it must remain compliant with the state’s laws if it wants to operate casinos, and that compliance costs money. It has to “engage in responsible gaming, prevent fraud, prevent illegal gaming, and prevent underage gambling”. The Nation also pays 2% of its earnings in Impact Mitigation Funds, which go to paying support services in area around the casino.

If Valve is a gambling operation, like the Nation claims, then it is an unlicensed one and doesn’t incur any of the costs or the risks that come with a gambling license. The Nation is suing for damages, but also the money Valve obtained through gambling transactions.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 3/25 – 3/31

New York man gets 56 months in jail for running $62 million real estate Ponzi scheme

A New York man will spend more than the next four years in jail after admitting to running a real estate Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of approximately $62 million by promising “risk-free” investments in commercial real estate. Court documents showed that between December 2009 and March 2013, Barkany convinced more than 10 victims to invest approximately $62 million by committing to use the money in “risk-free” deals to purchase, and then immediately sell at a profit, commercial real estate located in New York City and New Jersey. But much to the investors’ dismay, the deals in question did not actually exist, leaving the investors with total losses on their investments. As for what Barkany did with the money, some of the money went to pay back his earlier investors, a hallmark of a Ponzi scheme. Additionally, Barkany used approximately $7.8 million of his investors’ money for “personal expenses and gambling,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Edwina Close Woman Defrauded Bosses of £400,000 

Southampton Crown Court heard today how the management accountant – who also used the surname Griffin – used nine different bank accounts in her own name to stash stolen cash – and hid transactions from her employers over a period of seven years. But when her employers, Southampton based builders’ merchants Elliots started an investigation in 2016 into the missing cash, she refused to comment. Weir, who had worked for the company since 2009, instead blamed others for the lost funds. “She was employed by them for seven years but she exploited the company’s trust in her by systematically draining company funds to feed her gambling habit. “The amounts involved were staggering and this was happening over a very long period of time. “Both these factors demonstrate the severity of Weir’s gambling addiction. The fact that she has nothing to show for it at the end of the day tells its own story. “But it wasn’t her money she was gambling with. Her actions were to the detriment of the company which placed its trust in her and to everyone
who worked with her.

Federal case opens a window to the underground world of sports betting

Stephen Mardigan’s life as the leader of a high-stakes sports betting operation in Portland began by accident. The used car dealer had collected bets from friends and planned to pass them on to his bookmaker. But Mardigan didn’t get them in on time, so he ended up holding the risk. His friends all lost, and Mardigan got to keep the winnings. He went from bettor to bookie, and so began an underground career that would decades later lead to a federal conviction and a 15-month prison sentence. The case opened a window into the world of sports betting just as the state Legislature will consider bills this year to legalize, regulate and tax the practice in some form. Mardigan, 62, pleaded guilty in May to unlawful gambling, money laundering and filing a false tax return. He also agreed to forfeit nearly $700,000 and 19 properties valued at $13 million, in addition to paying more than $3 million in back taxes and penalties. He was taken into custody Tuesday evening, just hours after his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Portland. “I now realize that I was out of control,” he wrote. “See, gamblers get a high that’s stimulating but tranquilizing at the same time. I lived for that. It was a gambling roller coaster. During the day I had business dealings, at night I had my gambling.”

Resigned collector requests low sentence after gambling related conviction

Former Callaway County Collector Pamela Oestreich told the court Friday her gambling addiction led to her confessed theft of about $300,000. She’s requested a shorter prison sentence of 60 days, rather than the longer term of incarceration requested by prosecutors, according to a sentencing memorandum filed Friday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. “Because of her gambling addiction Oestreich did not personally and financially benefit from her theft to any great extent,” stated her lawyer, Daniel Hunt, in the sentencing memorandum. “The present offense has only served to damage her otherwise excellent reputation without any real benefit to her.” Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District court, recommended a sentence of 37 months of imprisonment and three years’ supervised release in a sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday. “In an age of increasing public skepticism of the integrity of government institutions and public officials, Oestreich’s crime has an exceptionally troubling impact on the public trust of fundamental government operations,” Garrison stated. “The sentence imposed by this court must protect the public from faithless public officers, deter other public officials from similar conduct, promote respect for the law, including those who enforce it, and impose a just punishment.”

Huntington Man Sentenced for Embezzling Veteran’s Benefits

A Huntington man was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for embezzling over $80,000 of his brother’s Veteran’s benefits, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart. In addition to the 6 months imprisonment, Washington will spend 6 months on home confinement following his release. He was also ordered to make restitution. The case was investigated by the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Despicable,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “It’s unimaginable to think that anyone, much less a patriot’s brother, would steal a veteran’s hard earned benefits. If you can’t trust your brother, who can you trust?” David Washington, 55, was appointed his brother’s fiduciary to receive and manage benefits from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Washington failed to submit accounting reports, which led investigators to question his management. Washington later admitted to mismanagement, including spending his brother’s benefits for his own personal expenses, most of which involved gambling debts.

Ladbrokes gagged gambling addict who stole £1.8m

Britain’s biggest betting company used a non-disclosure agreement to stop a gambling addict, and the victims whose money he stole, from reporting how Ladbrokes allegedly encouraged his illegal betting, /The Times/ can reveal. Conservative and Labour MPs have called for a government review into the use of NDAs after /The Times/ uncovered the use of a gagging order by Ladbrokes which prevented the Gambling Commission being told how it allegedly helped a customer illegally gamble for three years from Dubai, where betting is outlawed. The gambler said a Ladbrokes VIP manager told him how to use a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass the UAE’s internet restrictions on gambling. He was even offered a free iPad with a VPN already set up on it.

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