A Brief Look at Crime 9/09 – 9/15

Dennis Blieden Accused of Embezzlement of $22m at Former Employer

March of 2018 was pretty exciting for *Dennis Blieden* as he was relatively unknown to the poker world before that month. However, he made a miraculous victory and managed to rise to the top by topping a filed of 493 tough entries and taking down the $10,000 buy-in *WPT LA Poker Classic Main Event*. He won more than $1 million and many players praised him for his outstanding performance. It has been 16 months since that event, and Dennis Blieden is all over the news once again. However, this time, the news is much worse than they were before. On July 11, Blieden was indicted for the *embezzlement* of $22 million by a federal grand jury. He was accused of embezzling that sum from *SyleHaul*, which was his former employer. There, Blieden had the role of controller and vice president of accounting and finance. Having such a position, Blieden had access to the company’s finances which he allegedly used in order to transfer funds for his private use. He used the money for various *poker* buy-ins and other gambling activities. The entire process lasted for almost four years — it started in October 2015 and ended in March 2019. A federal grand jury returned the indictment on Tuesday and it was unsealed on Thursday. In it, there are a total of 11 wire fraud charges, a charge of aggravated identity theft, and two charges of forfeiture — all of them against *Dennis Blieden*.

Bothell woman sentenced to three years in prison for embezzlement

The company managed a number of commercial properties and was owned by a couple who hired McCauley in 2004 to help with bookkeeping. In 2012, McCauley began writing large checks to herself and forging the owners’ signatures. “She stole a significant amount of money from a small company and it greatly impacted that business,” Chief U.S. District judge Ricardo S. Martinez said at sentencing, according to a press release. McCauley had earned her employers’ trust, as the couple entered their 60s and 70s, and they gave McCauley gifts and helped with her car and house payments. In 2017, the couple loaned her $8,000 for home repairs — a loan that was repaid with some of the $400,000 that was stolen from their own accounts When the couple became aware of the theft, they worked with the FBI to see if McCauley would admit the embezzlement. McCauley underestimated the amount of money she had embezzled, and acknowledged much of the money had gone to feed her gambling addiction.

Man fired a handgun in casino, 48 people inside, after high-speed chase

A 29-year-old man, nearing the end of a 30-some mile high-speed chase from police, fired one round from a pistol in a casino with more than 40 people inside as he rushed through the building on Sunday, Missoula County prosecutors said Tuesday. Charging documents filed this week against Matthew Van Valin allege he fired one round from a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun as he entered the Gray Wolf Peak Casino on Sunday, after he crashed his vehicle into a pillar in front of the building. Authorities do not allege he fired the weapon at anyone in particular. Police recovered the firearm, a shell casing and a bullet core after his arrest, according to court documents. Forty-eight people were inside the casino when the police chase came through the front doors. Van Valin is charged with three counts of criminal endangerment in connection with the following allegations: one for weaving through law enforcement vehicles during the chase; another for discharging a firearm near the entryway of the Gray Wolf Peak Casino, and a third for causing danger to other drivers on Highway 93 as he sped away from Ronan police.

Georgia DA Files Civil Forfeiture Involving Illegal Gambling Machines

The state of Georgia has witnessed a recent crackdown on illegal gambling machines. Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke announced a civil forfeiture action, naming over 100 business owners in Georgia. Those who stand accused are facing bribery and tax evasion charges for operating illegal gambling machines in the state. Included in the suit is Bibb County deputy Rahim McCarley. The DA has reported that, in the time frame listed in the case, gamblers spent over $121m. They won a total of $82m in cash and prizes playing on the machines. According to Cooke, store owners and stakeholders laundered the gambling profits, with millions of dollars sent through trusts with no taxes paid. According to Cooke, the license holders set up fake storefronts for the gambling machines to operate illegally. This allowed the license holders to keep the proceeds instead of sharing them with the store owners. It is required by state law for such proceeds to be shared. District Attorney Cooke, who is now calling for the gambling machines to be removed from operation, said: “These machines are a cancer on our society and it’s time that they’re removed from the Macon Judicial Circuit and the rest of the state.”

Teacher took his own life in Vietnam following online gambling losses

State authorities should be held responsible for the death of a 24-year-old gambling addict who killed himself after being ‘past the point of controlling myself’, his family has argued during his inquest. Jack Ritchie, who had been fighting an addiction to gambling since the age of 17, took his own life in Hanoi, Vietnam, in November 2017. A pre-inquest review into the death of the English teacher, who was originally from Sheffield and was working in the South East Asian country, heard that it was arguable that failures on the part of UK authorities to treat gambling problems had contributed to his death. Paul Greaney QC, representing the family during the hearing at Sheffield Coroner’s Court, likened the effects of the addiction to those of smoking, saying that it is ‘not fanciful’ to suggest that the state could be held to account for Mr Ritchie’s death. He said that authorities had been aware of the risks from the gambling methods that the teacher was using, such as fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – which are effectively electronic gambling machines – and online gambling. Mr Ritchie’s parents, Charles and Liz Ritchie, have asked that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to life – be engaged in his inquest.

Attempted murder suspect now charged with gambling, organized crime and drug trafficking 

Appalachia Narcotics Investigations was building a case against George Fisher long before he was arrested for two counts of attempted murder. Detectives charged the local business owner Friday with promoting gambling first-degree, trafficking drugs first-degree and engaging in organized crime – criminal syndicate. Authorities said Fisher used his businesses as fronts for illegal gambling and narcotics trafficking. He allegedly set up and operated gambling devices, and worked with three or more people to promote or engage in these criminal activities. ANI worked with the Middlesboro Police Department. The case is ongoing. Officials expect to make more arrests.

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

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