Monthly Archives: July 2019

Genting Group Continues its Efforts at a Miami Florida Casino in a Most Unusual Way

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing attempts, and subsequent failures, of gambling giant Genting to get a mega Las Vegas style casino legalized in Miami. They failed through the Florida legislature. They failed through a voter petition initiative. They have purchased land and tried to collaborate with a local pari-mutuel company in hopes of influencing local politicians. They even attempted to use the courts to sue to state to allow them to offer gambling card games. That Hail Mary was surprisingly unsuccessful as well. Now, the Genting group is trying another approach and once again, local politicians see exactly what they are hoping to accomplish. An online source reports on their new play:

Genting and its gaming brand Resorts World has long been trying to build a multibillion-dollar casino resort on 30 acres of land it paid $236 million for in 2011. No change in state law has come to allow the commercial casino to move forward, but that hasn’t stopped the Malaysian-based gaming and hospitality corporation from continuing to invest in the area.

Genting is in the final approval stages to build a 300-room hotel tower and residential apartment building over the expanded Omni Station bus terminal located on the property. Now, Genting is offering to fund construction of a monorail line that would connect downtown Miami to Miami Beach at a cost of $48 million per mile.

The Miami-Dade County Commission did vote to open the bid process for companies wanting to construct a new monorail, but officials point out that there is no guarantee they would be awarded the contract. The Miami Herald reports:

Genting kept its monorail plan alive Wednesday when Miami-Dade commissioners accepted the casino company’s proposal to launch a bidding contest for building a tax-funded transit system across Biscayne Bay, linking Miami with South Beach.

In a 9-3 vote, commissioners approved [Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos] Gimenez’s request to launch a bidding process sometime in the fall. Genting and rivals would then have six months to respond to the county’s request for proposals. After the deadline, the county could accept one of the proposals or reject them all and start again.

Others have rejected the notion that this a fair bid process and believe the fact that Genting already has a full proposal means other companies won’t even engage in the bid process. The Miami Herald continues:

Commissioners Jean Monestime, Xavier Suarez and Rebeca Sosa voted No. Commissioner Barbara Jordan was not present for the vote. She is part of a delegation with the Transportation Planning Organization visiting transit options in Asia, including the monorail that Genting partner BYD operates in China. Sosa raised concerns about Miami-Dade turning to a company with China ties for a transit project. “I want to see if they have any relations with a country that can be adverse to the United States,” she said.

Commissioner Joe Martinez said launching a competition in response to Genting’s proposal is going to make other transportation developers less likely to compete.

“You want it clean? Reject it,” Martinez said of the Genting proposal that the county received in May. He said Miami-Dade should start with its own process to solicit bids for the Beach corridor, and not be restrained by the confidentiality rules hovering over the Genting proposal. “Everyone starts at Ground Zero,” he said.

Despite the Commission moving the proposal along, and theoretically opening the process up to other bidders, many still question the notion of doing business with a company with clear ulterior motives. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber made it very clear in a letter to the Miami Herald, that even if Genting were to win this monorail bid, Miami Beach would still reject a new casino.

[M]ost or all of the city’s commission will strenuously object to any plan that might allow for, or even contemplate, a casino that is placed nearby or tethered to our community. I believe casino gambling is an existential threat to our community fabric and our quality of life, which is why I have opposed it as a state representative, state senator, and now mayor. Recently, when we approved our new Convention Center Hotel, we didn’t merely prohibit gaming in the facility, we also required that any developer of the project not maintain gaming interests.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 07/15 – 07/21

US Tourist Deaths Reported at Punta Cana Hard Rock Casino as Suspicious D.R. Fatalities Grow (Dominican Republic)

A spate of mysterious deaths of US citizens in tourist resorts in the Dominican Republic has prompted speculation that a serial poisoner may be running amok on the Caribbean Island. The death of California man Robert Bell Wallace in April at the Punta Cana Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort, first reported on Sunday by Fox News, brings the number of suspicious deaths of Americans on the island to at least six in just over a year. Days earlier, Maryland widow Dawn McCoy went public over her concerns about the death of her husband, David Harrison, one year ago at the same resort. Both Wallace and Harrison had been healthy and had died under similar sudden circumstances, according to relatives. Wallace’s niece, Chloe Arnold, told Fox News that her uncle became ill almost immediately after drinking a Scotch from the minibar. He was examined by a resort doctor, who decided he needed to be hospitalized immediately. He died a day later. The US Department of State confirmed last month it was investigating but has said it is “not aware” of any connection between the deaths. But on Friday, Fox News learned that the FBI had joined the investigation, an indication that the possibility is at least being considered they are not the result of natural causes as listed on the autopsy reports.

Americans comprise just over half of the six million tourists who visit the Dominican Republic each year. With such a vast number of visitors, it’s possible the deaths are nothing more than a striking coincidence, but this is not explanation relatives are willing to accept just yet as the clamor for answers grows louder. The Dominican authorities continue to insist the country is safe to visit, but the US State Department urges visitors to exercise caution due to high crime rates, citing “the availability of weapons, the use and trade of illicit drugs, and a weak criminal justice system.” On Monday, it was reported that former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz was recovering from surgery after being shot through the stomach Sunday at a nightclub in Santo Domingo, the island’s capital.

Milford man embezzled more than $1.3 million from companies

A Milford man embezzled more than $850,000 from a Framingham company to help pay for his $1 million in slot machine losses, authorities said. In total, Antonis Mallios, 43, embezzled more than $1.3 million from two companies, according to the spokesperson Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. Mallios pleaded not guilty at his Middlesex Superior Court arraignment on Monday. He is charged with 10 counts of larceny of more than $1,200, two counts of false entry into corporate books and one count of being a common and notorious thief. Mallios was working as a bookkeeper for SVA Inc., a sound engineering company in Framingham. An owner of the company noticed in December one of their accounts had less money than there should be and began auditing their finances.“ Upon reviewing their bank records they discovered that the defendant, who had been employed as a part-time accountant and bookkeeper since 2011, had allegedly been creating and issuing checks payable to himself from the business bank accounts,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

Former employee admits to defrauding land surveyors association of more than $200K 

In determining how best to sentence a former executive director, a judge will consider the role of a gambling problem in a hefty fraud that nearly emptied the coffers of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association. Carla Stadnick was executive director — and sole paid employee — of the non-profit association when, in late 2017 and early 2018, she defrauded her employer of more than $216,000. Pyle detailed his client’s struggles with gambling, stating she’d fallen so far into addiction as to not only take money from her employer but to drain her family’s accounts. Court heard Stadnick started working for the association in 2012, and was the sole employee at the Regina office. The then-president of the association lived in Lloydminster, and so was in no easy position to check on the situation when, in late 2017, he heard from members expressing concerns about Stadnick’s performance. When he was unable to get to the bottom of things with her by phone, he made the drive to Regina. He’d expected to hear she was seriously ill. Instead, she confessed she’d been stealing money from the association’s account — a total, it turned out, of $216,455.61.

Jury convicts former Cape Coral real estate broker in half million dollar fraud scheme

A Cape Coral real estate broker was found guilty Tuesday of wire fraud and money laundering as part of a scheme to defraud an investor of more than a half million dollars. A jury convicted Aaron Eyerman, 37, Tuesday in federal court in Fort Myers. He will face sentencing Sept. 9. Eyerman was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud, eight counts of money laundering and one count of false oath in a bankruptcy hearing. In 2015, Eyerman made false statements to the victim and convinced her to invest $300,000 in a real estate venture. Specifically, Eyerman indicated they would “flip” houses by buying, rehabbing, and re-selling properties, the court said. Instead of using the money for that purpose, Eyerman gambled away a large portion of the money at casinos and, over seven weeks, spent the remainder on personal luxury goods, including a custom Porsche 911, a $12,700 Rolex watch, and a $50,000 down payment on his personal luxury waterfront residence in Cape Coral. Eyerman convinced the victim to provide him with another $261,000, which he immediately spent for personal use, including gambling most of it away at the Seminole Indian Casino in Immokalee, the release noted. In total, Eyerman defrauded the victim of $561,000.

Bibb DA announces take down of one of the largest illegal gambling operations in Georgia

The Bibb District Attorney’s office, along with multiple other agencies, announced Thursday they had shut down one of Georgia’s largest illegal gambling operations. The office entered into a settlement on Wednesday with Georgia Atlanta Amusements LLC, its owners and associates for more than $14 million. The company, run by Junaid Virani and his family, owned more than 650 gambling machines at more than 130 legitimate businesses across the state that allowed people to illegally gamble for cash prizes. Beginning in July 2015, all gambling machines in Georgia were connected to a central computer system that kept track of the amounts played and won. Investigators found that Georgia Atlanta Amusements had failed to pay sales and use taxes on approximately $46 million. The settlement says that GAA and its owners and associates are now barred from operating coin-operated machines. A judge will also determine how forfeited assets will be divided. District Attorney David Cooke said his office expects $3M to go to the Georgia Lottery’s HOPE Scholarship program. They also expect $1M to go to sales and use taxes owed in Bibb County. The rest of the assets will be distributed to the district attorney’s offices and law enforcement agencies who helped take the operation down.

Platinum Gaming Penalised by UKGC to Pay £1.6 Million for Social Responsibility and Money Laundering Failures

Another online gambling operator will be forced to pay a monetary fine imposed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) due to failures to identify gambling-related harm and lack of prevention for money laundering. The main gambling regulator of the British gambling sector launched an investigation after it received reports that Platinum Gaming allowed a convicted fraudster to spend a total amount of £629,420. During the enquiries, the Commission learned that the deposits the customer made were so high and losses so big that Platinum Gaming should have considered imposing some limits to the customer, including to ban them from its services. Instead, the online gambling firm continued to allow the customer to gamble. Now, as part of the settlement reached between the UKGC and Platinum Gaming, the online gambling operator agreed to return the amount of £629,420 to fraudster’s victims and to pay a total of £990,200 in lieu of a financial penalty. The money is set to be spent by the Commission to facilitate the delivery of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. According to the investigation’s results, anti-money laundering regulations were breached by the operator. In addition, Platinum Gaming failed to make adequate checks of the source of the funds which were used by the customer to gamble.

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

Missouri Prosecutors Advance Lawsuit to Shutdown Illegal Gambling Machines Popping Up Across the State

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a recent gambling expansion proposal in Missouri that would legalize slot machines outside of casinos. Currently, legalized gambling in Missouri is limited to a set number of licensed and regulated casinos that exist along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The proposal would be an unprecedented expansion in gambling, as it would allow slot machines virtually anywhere in the state. However, the state is currently seeing similar expansion due to illegal gambling machines that operate exactly as these proposed slot machines would. These machines are popping up all over Missouri and the manufacture claims they are not slot machines because the reveal the result of the next spin to the player. These machines act exactly like the pre-reveal machines Florida had to deal with recently and the courts quickly called them out as illegal slot machines. It’s very clear that even though the initial spin shown is your outcome, it’s the spin after that the gambler is paying to see. Players are simply paying in advance and the subsequent outcomes are all a matter of chance. It is a slot machine through and through and a Platte County prosecutor is cracking down on these machines through a new lawsuit that seeks to get clarification by the court. An online source explains:

They look like slot machines, but they aren’t inside a casino.

Video gambling machines have been popping up across Missouri, including in St. Joseph, which has led one prosecutor to file criminal charges to stop their spread. Integrity Vending LLC, based in Kansas, currently faces one felony county of promoting gambling in Platte County.

“In Missouri, games of chance are illegal,” Eric Zahnd, the Platte County Prosecuting Attorney said. “These machines, according to the manufacturer, reveal whether or not you’ll win the next round of the game so they allege that it’s not a game of chance.”

“However to continue to play you have to play through those losing rounds,” Zahnd said.

The legal question that a judge must resolve is whether or not the machines constitute a game of chance, like a slot machine or video poker game. According to Zahnd, the company who distributed the machines, Integrity Vending LLC, has agreed to remove the machines if they’re determined to be illegal. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 07/08 – 07/14

Sports bettor ‘Vegas Dave’ gets 3-year sportsbook ban

Prominent sports bettor David Oancea, known in gambling circles as “Vegas Dave,” must stay out of Las Vegas sportsbooks for three years, a judge ruled Monday. Along with the sportsbook restriction, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey ordered Oancea to three years probation, gambling treatment and 150 hours of community service. Oancea was charged after authorities said he used other people’s Social Security numbers to open player accounts at casinos. The alleged crimes occurred between February 2015 and February 2016 and involved transactions that amounted to more than $1.2 million. The 42-year-old resolved the case by admitting to causing a violation of record keeping and procedures. Oancea has agreed to relinquish more than $550,000 in a related civil forfeiture. He also pleaded no contest last year to a disorderly conduct charge in Las Vegas Justice Court.

St. Louis-area executive accused of embezzling $3.8 million

The chief financial officer for a St. Louis-area company is accused in a federal indictment of embezzling $3.8 million. the Boyd Group, which owns real estate and operates stores that include The Bedroom Store, Boyd Sleep and Accent Furniture. The indictment says that from 2012 through January, Vonderahe issued about 500 company checks to himself, falsifying records to hide the thefts. He allegedly used the money for gambling, travel and other expenses.

Man to serve prison time for scheme involving Fountain residents 

Michael Lemay, the man who pleaded to guilty to scamming Fountain residents out of thousands of dollars, will spend the next several years in prison. During Monday’s court hearing, Deputy District Attorney Bradon Willms pointed out Lemay gambled $98,000 of the money he stole in Cripple Creek. Additionally, Lemay owes more than $167,000 to victims in El Paso County. Lemay admitted to having a gambling problem in court as he apologized for his actions. “I know a statement will not take the pain away,” Lemay said. Part of Lemay’s reasoning for his gambling was to help his two kids that he shares with an ex-wife. When the judge asked him if he was up to date on his child support payments, his ex-wife shouted from the back of the courtroom saying he was not current. The judge told Samantha Hugh there are steps to take when speaking in court.

Former NY cop faces 12 years for running gambling ring 

A vice cop with the New York Police Department (NYPD) was supposed to be fighting crime and eliminating activity such as mafia shakedowns and illegal gambling. Instead, he decided to use his position, and the knowledge he gained on the streets, to operate his own illegal gambling and prostitution ring that earned $2 million a year and services clients across Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. Ludwig Pax was ultimately busted for his entrepreneurial endeavor, along with his wife, Arelis Peralta, and the pair have copped to their activity in a Queens Supreme Court. The 51-year-old retired cop pleaded guilty to attempted enterprise corruption and promoting prostitution. His wife pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted enterprise corruption after having rejected a plea deal that would have led to a tougher sentence seven months ago. In 2015, the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau received a tip that led to the department launching an investigation against Paz and the other officers. Codenamed Operation Zap, the investigation spanned several months before the net was dropped over Paz and his conspirators. The tip had come from someone inside the department.

Former Dells bookkeeper tells court $350K embezzlement supported gambling addiction

A former bookkeeper/secretary accused of embezzling nearly $350,000 from the Lake Delton Fire Department Commission and the Dells-Delton Emergency Medical Services Commission said she took the money to support her gambling addiction. “I took funds from (the commissions)… to fuel my gambling addiction,” Czuprynko told District Judge William Conley. A search conducted of her desk Nov. 30 recoveredspreadsheets detailing her theft and documents from Ho-Chunk Casino, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Graber. Czuprynko embezzled by writing checks from the commissions’ accounts for her own use. Two signature stamps that Czuprynko bought and used to authorize checks also were found in her desk. The former bookkeeper said she kept spreadsheets of her thefts because she “always thought that I would repay the funds.” Czuprynko’s theft was investigated by the Lake Delton Police Department, which referred the matter to the FBI, which turned it over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution, Graber said. The embezzlement is a federal offense because the commissions received about $685,000 in federal funds in 2017.

Man arrested for leaving 18-month-old in vehicle while he gambled

A Brookport, Illinois man is accused of leaving an 18-month-old child inside of a vehicle while he was gambling inside a store. Christopher G. Harris, 38, was arrested Monday, May 27 at a Casey’s store in Metropolis, Ill. Officers were first called to the store in reference to a theft allegedly involving Harris. The manager of the Casey’s reportedly told officers that Harris had allegedly pumped gas into his vehicle and left without paying. Later on, a Metropolis officer returned to the Casey’s after spotting Harris’ car at the store. The police officer reports Harris was in the gaming area playing the video machines. During the investigation, police said they found an 18-month-old child alone in Harris’ vehicle. Harris was arrested and booked into the Massac County Detention Center. The toddler was reportedly turned over to Harris’ mother. During a search of Harris, police said they found methamphetamine and Alprozolam, a controlled substance. Harris was charged with theft, possession of meth, possession of a controlled substance and child endangerment.

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

Bipartisan Legislation filed to Address Military Gambling Issues

Casino Watch Focus has reported on past efforts to pass provide support to those in the military who experience gambling addiction, sometimes at military ran gambling facilities. Most recently, the Trump Administration pushed a directive to add gambling addiction screenings for military personnel in hopes of identifying and treating those in need. The new provision added to the National Defense Authorization Act carried out the screenings during the medical evaluation phase, but some believe even more can be done. Bipartisan legislation is being introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Steve Daines (R) that seeks to address the issue further and it has the support of the National Council on Problem Gambling. An online source reports:

The *National Council on Problem Gambling*(NCPG), the national organization for people and their families who are affected by problem gambling and gambling addiction, has welcomed the reintroduction of the bipartisan Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act of 2019 by *Senators Elizabeth Warren*and *Steve Daines*. The GAP Act, drawn up to protect members of the military, is complemented by companion legislation introduced in the House by Representative *Susie Lee*.

*Keith Whyte*, Executive Director of NCPG, commented: “I applaud Senators Daines and Warren and Representative Lee for taking the lead on the GAP Act to address problem gambling in the military. NCPG believes there exists an ethical and economic obligation to protect our troops by preventing gambling addiction.

“Problem gambling is a critical issue that is far too often overlooked. Research reveals that problem gambling uniquely impacts the military. For example, an estimated 56,000 service members meet the criteria for problem gambling, while military members lost $100m on 3,000 slot machines at overseas bases in 2018 alone. Clearly, the Department of Defense holds an even higher obligation to address problem gambling because of the windfall profits they make from gambling.”

Gambling addiction and gambling related problems can pose unique risks to those who serve in the military to go beyond the typical gambling related problems civilians’ experience. Military Times explains:

Warren said the move is designed “to honor the sacrifices service members and veterans make for our country” by helping individuals “get the treatment they need.”

Troops and veterans with significant gambling debts could face difficulties gaining or maintaining security clearances, due to fears that their financial situation leaves them more susceptible to blackmail.

Studies have found gambling addition is connected to a higher risk of suicide attempts, behavioral disorders, and other health concerns.

Complicating the issue are nearly 3,000 slot machines still in operation at overseas military bases, which bring in millions in revenue each year for military morale and recreation programs.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 7/01 – 7/07

St. Croix Chippewa tribe is facing $5.5 million fine for pocketing and misappropriating $1.5 million

The impoverished St. Croix Chippewa tribe is being fined $5.5 million because some of its leaders pocketed or misappropriated more than $1.5 million in tribal gaming funds, the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission said in a blistering notice. The proposed fine comes one month after commission chairman Jonodev O. Chaudhuri charged the tribe with 527 violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, commission regulations and tribal law. The maximum fine allowed for those violations is $27.7 million. “The tribal Council members, gaming Commissioners, consultants and other individuals named in the Notice of Violation diverted at least $1.5 million away from tribal resources to line their own pockets,” Chaudhuri wrote in an notice Thursday. The actions become more “egregious” in light of the tribe’s recent arguments to the commission in which the tribe “claims that ‘it is impossible to overstate the precariousness of the tribe’s current financial situation,’ ” Chaudhuri wrote.

The tribe, based in Burnett County, has about 1,000 members, many of whom live in poverty. Sources said tribal members receive a per capita dividend of about $400 a month from tribe’s profitable gaming operation, including its flagship casino in Turtle Lake. Chaudhuri said he would take the St. Croix Chippewa “at its word” regarding its financial condition. “But I also recognize that this may not be the case but for the misappropriations of net gaming revenue committed by the council members and gaming commissioners,” he wrote. Chaudhuri added later that “the tribe would have an additional $1.5 million in available funds if they had not been repeatedly doled out to the tribe’s own leaders, ‘consultants’ and others for personal gain.”

Attorney tells jury Kim Birge stole more than $1 million from Savannah victims

An attorney for 11 victims of former Chatham County Probate Court Clerk Kim Birge on Monday told jurors that his clients lost more than $409,000 to her theft while she traveled and gambled with the proceeds and she drove Corvettes. Those sums were among the $1 million Birge stole from the court over an eight-year period from children who had lost their parents, the elderly or physically injured or mentally handicapped, attorney Brent Savage told a Chatham County State Court jury empaneled to hear the civil case. Included among those victims were several people who lost their husbands and fathers in the Feb. 8, 2008, fire and explosion at the Savannah Sugar Refinery in Port Wentworth that killed 14 and injured dozens more. But attorney Walter Ballew, who represents Birge, told the jurors that people who knew Birge were “shocked by her conduct” which he blamed on opioid and gambling addictions that spun out of control. Birge, 64, was not in court. She remains incarcerated in a federal prison in West Virginia where she is serving a six-year term after pleading guilty in federal court on July 31, 2015, to stealing $232,000 from the Probate Court as part of a scheme in which the government said she stole more than $750,000 over a three-year period.

Atlanta lawyer ordered to repay $40M after embezzlement 

Before he went to federal prison last year for embezzling millions, Atlanta lawyer Nat Hardwick testified about how good a guy he was. Among the evidence he cited was his accessibility, how he’d always return clients’ messages quickly even as he was busy building an empire of a law firm. Hardwick is now serving 15 years in a low security federal prison in Kentucky, but he’s still prompt. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross ordered him to pay $40 million in restitution. The feds then went after him for defrauding the firm of millions to fund his gambling habit and want for a luxurious existence. This past October, the jury convicted Hardwick of conspiring to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of wire fraud and making a false statement to federally insured financial institution. The judge’s order said Hardwick must pay $23.3 million for Fidelity Bank and another $17 million to individuals.

Report of man with sawed-off shotgun leads to discovery of illegally operating casino

Deputies who were called to an Oildale business to a report of a man armed with a sawed-off shotgun discovered an illegally operating casino, according to sheriff’s officials. Deputies learned that business was an illegally operating casino, sheriff’s officials said. The suspect was inside and refusing to allow patrons to leave. Deputies surrounded the casino. After several attempts to contact people inside, three patrons left and said the man with the shotgun was still inside. The man, later identified as Jorge Sandoval, 26, surrendered after a brief standoff, deputies said. A search warrant was served on the business and the shotgun and a single two-player electronic “fish game” was located inside. Sandoval was arrested on suspicion of crimes including false imprisonment, possession of a short -barreled shotgun and engaging in operation of an illegal casino.

Rivers Casino fined $90,000 for underage gambling, drinking 

The Rivers Casino was fined $90,000 by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Wednesday for seven instances in which individuals younger than 21 gained access in order to gamble and consume alcohol. Technically, the fine was imposed on Holdings Acquisitions Co., the operator of the Rivers, after individuals ranging in age from 17 to 20 used slot machines and/or played table games. Six of the seven also drank, according to the gaming board. The North Shore casino posts signs throughout advising that access is restricted to adults 21 and older, and its security staff at entrances customarily check IDs of young adults to verify they meet the age requirement. State regulators hold the casino accountable for anyone on the premises who is below 21. “We take these matters seriously, and the incidents were self-reported,” casino spokesman Jack Horner said in an emailed statement. “We’ve reviewed and modified internal procedures to help prevent recurrence. We respect the decision of the gaming board.”

Federal prosecutors say Omaha man bilked Medicare of more than $670K in multi-state scam

An Omaha man is accused of bilking Medicare of more than $674,000 in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and a dozen other states, allegedly throwing pizza parties at nursing homes and going to homeless shelters promising them all freebies in order to get Social Security information to further the scam. Vaccaro said the business has moved several times since it opened in November 2010, but most recently had an address on Millard Avenue in Omaha, moving out at the end of February. During the investigation, he said, agents learned through witnesses that Sutko visited assisted-living facilities, retirement centers and low-income housing complexes in Nebraska and neighboring states and set up pizza parties to show people eligible for Medicare and Medicaid the products Better Lives offered. In all, Sutko is alleged to have filed 1,666 claims, charging Medicare $1,172,802 and getting $674,106. Many of the claims — 700 — involved Nebraskans. Vaccaro said after concerns came up that Sutko may have a gambling problem, investigators served subpoenas on three casinos in the Council Bluffs, Iowa, area. Through them, they learned that Sutko had lost more than $350,000 between 2013 and September 2018, he said.

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

UPDATE: Florida Gov. DeSantis Vetoes Lottery Ticket Warning Labels

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many ongoing issues surrounding the Florida Lottery, with the most recent being a bill that sought to place warning labels on lottery tickets. The warnings would be visible on the ticket and remind players that lottery games could become addictive and to play responsibly. There was immediate opposition from those who relied on gambling as a source of revenue as they seemed to believe the warning labels would be effective and thus reduce their coffers. No Casino’s John Sowindki responded by pointing out the moral dilemma in funding education off gambling addicts, but it would appear that position is being rejected by Florida Gov DeSantis as he has vetoed the bill the passed the Florida legislature. An online source reports:

Lawmakers seeking to slap gambling-addiction warnings on state lottery tickets and advertising once again failed to scratch out a winner.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, noting potential impacts to money for education, vetoed a controversial bill (HB 629) that sought to require the following warnings to be prominently displayed on the front of all lottery tickets: “Warning: Lottery games may be addictive,” or “Play responsibly.”

DeSantis in a letter accompanying his veto noted that Florida Lottery officials expressed concerns the new warning requirements could affect marketing and participation in multi-state games.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 6/24 – 6/30

Man kills wife by forcing her to drink acid for protesting against betting in matches 

A 32-year-old woman was allegedly murdered by her husband along with 4 other family members when she voiced her concerns regarding placing bets during Indian Premier League matches in Malda town, located in West Bengal. The woman’s father alleged that the family committed the crime against the deceased after she protested on IPL betting. According to the police, the woman was immediately rushed to the Malda Medical College and Hospital (MMCH) when she was in an unconscious state by her neighbours on Wednesday night. However, she was pronounced ‘brought dead’ by the doctors in the hospital in Malda, which is located around 327 km towards the north of West Bengal capital, Kolkata.

Shooting happened in illegal poker house outside Shelby (NC)

Investigators uncovered a suspected gambling house when they responded to a shooting Monday afternoon. Deputies with the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office responded to find a man shot in his abdomen inside a residence. His wife was with him when investigators arrived, but the details of the shooting are still unclear according to Sheriff Alan Norman. The injured man has not been forthcoming with information so far, potentially because he was wounded inside an illegal gambling operation, Norman said. The home contained video poker machines, according to Norman. The sheriff said robbery appears to be the motive in the shooting, and the shooter is still at large. Investigators taped off the scene immediately and brought dogs out to search for the suspect. Norman said the most important task at hand is to find the shooter, then a multifaceted investigation will begin into the altercation, and the possible illegal gambling that appears to have been taking place in the rural community.

Ex-New Canaan woman used son’s life insurance to gamble 

A former New Canaan woman pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Virginia courtroom to embezzling about $100,000 from her grandchildren by spending her late son’s insurance policy. In court, a Commonwealth County attorney said Ireland used the money to fuel her gambling habit. Ireland and her late husband David Walter Ireland, a retired New Canaan police officer, moved to Virginia about 20 years ago. She was arrested on Sept. 18, 2018 on a charge of felony embezzlement. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened,” she said in court, according to The News and Advance covered the case. In late November 2014, his mother received more than $100,000 as custodian of the funds, since his oldest daughter Skyler was still a minor at the time. The News and Advance reported that Bedford Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Ayers said Frances Ireland opened bank accounts in her grandchildren’s names and used the money from her son’s policy “to support her own gambling habit.”

Ohio collects over $10 million in owed child support payments from gambling winnings

Winning a jackpot from one of Ohio’s casinos, racetracks or lottery tickets is fun — unless you owe child support. Ohio began collecting winnings from those who owe child support in 2007, though the state integrated with a real-time interface with the Ohio Lottery in 2014. So far, that number has reached $10 million. Kelly Billups of Grove City said after her divorce, she struggled to provide for her three daughters after her husband stopped paying child support. “We got food stamps for a while, we got some state insurance. I was making 16 dollars an hour trying to raise three kids,” she said. Now that her children are grown, she said she doubts she’ll ever see any of the money he still owes her. “Even though the girls are over 18 now, there is still $80,000 debt he owes to me for raising those girls. I’ll never see it,” she said. Ohio was one of the first states to go after back child support payments by going after lottery winnings. Using a database, the state checks the name of people who owe, and if they win, the casinos, racinos or lottery commission withholds all or a portion of the jackpot. Since 2014, 6,300 jackpots have been intercepted, totaling more than $10 million. “I love it I absolutely love it and I hope nobody tells them,” Billups said. She says the rare time she got money from her ex was when he was arrested for non-payment.

Accountant indicted in bank fraud case

A Huntington accountant has been federally indicted more than two years after she was accused of embezzling more than $1 million from a client’s account. Price was originally arrested in January 2016 and charged with more than 900 counts of embezzlement, forgery and uttering in Cabell County after the executor in charge of the trust for Elizabeth Caldwell, a Huntington woman who died in the fall of 2015, went to the West Virginia State Police after noticing the account was lower than expected. At that time it was alleged Price had embezzled more than $1 million from the Caldwell account, but the case was put on hold in Cabell County Circuit Court after federal authorities showed interest in the case. Investigators had said Price had spread out the money over several bank accounts, including those of her son and boyfriend. According to a criminal complaint filed in Cabell County Magistrate Court, Price “paid off (a) vehicle, went on trips, helped her son start a business, paid off her (son’s) student loans, supported her boyfriend and supported her gambling habit.”

Ex-OU punter sentenced to federal prison after embezzling from Tulsa bank to pay his bookie

A former Tulsa banking executive who siphoned nearly $700,000 from his employer to pay off gambling debts was sentenced Thursday to two years and seven months in federal prison. Blake Brian Ferguson, 37, was convicted after pleading guilty to committing a variety of fraudulent activities while employed at Firstar Bank N.A., where he was senior vice president. His incarceration on three counts of bank fraud and one count of unlawful monetary transaction will be followed by five years of supervised release. Chief U.S. District Judge John E. Dowdell ruled that Ferguson must make restitution to the bank and individuals affected, amounting to $144,160. “The integrity of the banking system is essential to the economic well-being of our community,” U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said in a statement. “In this instance, a senior bank officer betrayed the trust and confidence placed in him by the bank, his staff, and customers. Mr. Ferguson’s sentence sends a signal to the marketplace that fraud will not be tolerated inside our financial institutions.”

Ferguson’s brother also pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges related to work at Firstar Bank. Prosecutors alleged that Jeffrey Scott Ferguson stole $620,000 from customer accounts at the same bank. Jeffrey Ferguson’s sentencing is pending, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman. Both brothers were punters for the University of Oklahoma football team. Jeffrey Ferguson played on OU’s 2000 championship team and was later named an All-American.

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