Monthly Archives: November 2019

Florida’s Legislative attempt at Legalized Sports Betting Violates State Constitution

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of sports betting in Florida. There have been many looks at sports betting in Florida now that the Supreme Court has allowed it to be legal. Of course, each state would still need to enact legislation to allow for any sports betting in their jurisdiction. Florida never passed any sports betting legislation, and it would appear that unless the government ties something fairly underhanded, Amendment 3 to the Florida constitution would make it illegal to pass without the consent of the Florida Voters. Florida Politics online explains:

At issue is a bill Sen. Jeff Brandes filed Monday that would legalize sports betting in Florida and place regulatory and oversight authority within the Department of Lottery.

John Sowinski chaired Voters in Charge, the committee *behind the $45 million campaign to approve Amendment 3 last year that requires voter approval for casino gambling expansion in Florida. Voters overwhelmingly approved the Amendment with 71 percent voting in favor.

“Amendment three has one main thing. It says that if it’s casino gambling, it requires approval by citizen constitutional amendment,” Sowinski said. “The Legislature is not even allowed to propose it or put it on the ballot.” “It really could not be more crystal clear,” he added.

The issue at hand then, is the whether or not sports betting is part of the definition of casino gambling. John Sowinski says that answer is very easy to determine and one the courts have easy access to when looking to the question. Florida Politics continues:  

“Sorry — the bill is unconstitutional.When it comes to casino gambling — and yes, sports betting falls under that definition— the voters are in charge,” Sowinski wrote, referencing his committee’s name.

The opinion, released this April by *Paul* *Hawkes*, a former member of the First District Court of Appeals, makes an interesting point on voter intent.

“In 2018, a multi-million dollar campaign effort by sports gambling and pari-mutuel interests opposing Amendment 3 provided considerable accurate context about how Amendment 3 would effect sports gambling and player-designated games,” Hawkes wrote. “The intent of the voters was informed by numerous statements that create a record to which courts can turn to for an understanding of what voters understood the amendment to do.”

Simply put, voters understood a “yes” vote for Amendment 3 would affect sports betting, meaning their intent was for sports betting to be included in mandatory voter approval for gambling expansion. 

John Sowinski further argues, that if those like Brandes take the position that sports gambling can happen outside of a casino and thus its not explicitly a casino gambling issue, then the same can be said of slot machines, black jack and other table games that are offered outside of casinos as well. Even Brandes thinks those games would be considered casino gambling, so its hard to find room to say sports gambling should get a pass and somehow be seen as something other than casino gambling as well.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 11/18 – 11/24

Judge sets $5,000 bail for woman police say killed husband over illegal gambling

The woman police say stabbed her husband in Quincy following the discovery of an illegal basement gambling operation is being held on $5,000 cash bail. Huixian Liu was arraigned in Norfolk Superior Court Thursday after a grand jury indicted her for manslaughter in the death of her husband, Biqiang He, on the Fourth of July. Judge Robert Cosgrove imposed a $5,000 bail, which she had not posted as of Friday morning. If she does make bail, Liu will have to wear a GPS monitoring device. Liu was originally charged with murder, but the jury returned the indictment on the lesser offense of manslaughter. Police responded to reports of a stabbing at 10 South Central Ave. in Quincy at about 7 p.m. Thursday, July 4, according police reports filed in court. One officer wrote that he was familiar with the house because the city had shut down an illegal gambling operation in its basement two days before. Witnesses told police that Liu and He were arguing about letting the city inspector into the two-family home’s basement to see gambling machines earlier in the week. The witness said the pair started to “wrestle and grapple with each other,” and He’s leg began bleeding.

New York man busted for trying to fix NCAA college basketball game

A New York man schemed with alleged mob figures to fix an NCAA college basketball game by offering players thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Benjamin Bifalco, 25, was among 20 people swept up in a federal probe targeting members of the Colombo crime families and their associates in Staten Island, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Bifalco was caught on a wiretap discussing his scheme with Joseph Amato Jr., the son of an alleged Colombo captain. In a series of phone calls over the next several days, Bifalco laid out his plan to fix the game by “offering to pay thousands of dollars to multiple members of a basketball team so that they would intentionally lose by a lot,” allowing the favored team to cover the point spread, the court papers say. Bifalco tried to persuade Amato Jr. to place thousands of dollars on the game, according to federal prosecutors

Convicted Rapist Found Guilty Of £2.5m Fake Lottery Ticket Scam

Edward Putman had been accused of fraud by false representation after using a fake ticket to claim an outstanding jackpot. The 54-year-old from Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, was in court after conspiring with friend Giles Knibbs – who was an employee in the security department at Camelot between 2004 and 2010. The scam only came to light on 5 October 2015, when Mr Knibbs committed suicide. During the case at St Albans Crown Court, it was heard that before he died Knibbs told friends of his conspiracy with Putman, a builder who had worked on an extension at his home. Earlier that year, Putman had gone to the police alleging Knibbs had threatened to reveal his previous convictions for the rape of a 17-year-old girl in 1991 and a benefits fraud in 2012. Putman also told authorities that his co-conspirator had stolen his mobile phone and damaged the wing mirror on his car. It’s understood Knibbs was angry that he didn’t receive his share of the winnings. As a result Knibbs was arrested and reportedly told former partner John Coleyshaw that he thought he was ‘going down for 10 to 15 years for blackmail’.

Former gambler jailed for stealing €1.75million

A former gambler who was jailed for stealing €1.75million from An Post to feed a €10million betting frenzy has hit out at online bookies for targeting the vulnerable. Dad-of-one Tony O’Reilly described Ireland’s gambling habit as “chronic” and said there are not enough supports to help those caught in its grip. The 44-year-old, who stole from the safe while working as postmaster in Gorey, Co Wexford, spent 18 months in prison and lost his marriage over his actions. Tony told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “I pinpoint the online account as the changing point because of the ease of access and the way you could hide it. “I was able to gamble with a credit card from the comfort of my own room. I didn’t have to physically go to the bookies… using the card is not like real money. “People are able to gamble 24 hours a day now. It completely changed how I looked at the experience of gambling. It was heavy.” At the height of his addiction Tony, whose online user name was ‘Ton 10’, was lodging €5,000 into his account three times a day to feed his habit. He turned €5,000 into €462,000 over the space of a weekend but within 12 hours of his big win he had lost it all again. He said: “I think the lack of regulation is worrying. It’s not just gambling, it’s gaming, it’s the internet, it’s 24/7.

Lucchese mob boss ordered 2013 hit over unpaid $100K loan: prosecutors

Former acting Lucchese mob boss Matthew Madonna ordered a 2013 Bronx hit on a onetime ally after the man refused to repay a $100,000 loan, a prosecutor said Monday. The statement came during opening arguments in the White Plains trial of Steven Crea Sr., Christopher Londonio, Terrence Caldwell and Madonna — who are accused of racketeering conspiracy and other charges for their respective roles in the Lucchese organized crime family. “Not repaying a boss is a dangerous game,” said Cohen, adding that Londonio and alleged triggerman Caldwell subsequently executed Meldish as he sat in his parked car in November 2013. “Michael Meldish is dead because of these four men,” said Cohen. In addition to racketeering, the reputed wiseguys are also accused of extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling and other acts of ruthless violence. Londonio is also facing a separate charge for stockpiling bed sheets while in custody — purportedly as part of a plot to escape out the window of a federal lockup.

FBI Says Clearwater Man Used Investors’ Funds To Drink, Gamble

A Clearwater man who was living the high life with money stolen from investors in his fictional company will spend the next 46 months in federal prison. Buffington pleaded guilty to wire fraud on April 30. His sentenced was handed down Sept. 26. The court also ordered Buffington to forfeit more than $1.2 million from the proceeds of his criminal activities and pay more than $1.2 million in restitution to the victims of his fraud scheme. But it could be a long time before the victims see any restitution funds. When he was arrested on Aug. 30, 2018, Buffington was broke. Instead of investing the funds intended for GSE, the FBI said Buffington used the money he raised, including $3,000 wired to him by an undercover agent, for drinking, drugs and gambling. The FBI said he led a lavish lifestyle with the money from investors. He rented a pricey waterfront home on Boca Ciega Bay and spent more than $15,000 drinking and gambling at Derby Lane and the Hard Rock Casino.

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


Slot Machine Expansion Halted by Florida Supreme Court

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by expanding slot machines in various jurisdictions. Many areas around Florida have looked to pass voter referendums to allow slot machines, and in several places, they passed. The problem? There was no explicit allowance by the government to allow gambling in those jurisdictions. Those communities argued the referendum was enough, but now the Florida Supreme Court has weighted in on the matter. An online source explains:

A Florida Supreme Court decision that could have resulted in a sweeping expansion of slot machines across the state, including in Palm Beach County, has instead restricted them to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where they are already in place.

The decision means that pari-mutuels in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that already have slots, such as Mardi Gras and Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach and Isle Casino in Pompano Beach, will continue to have them. But at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, which has long sought to get in on the casino action, the blinking lights and whirling sounds of the one-armed bandits will remain out of reach.

The Supreme Court case stemmed from an attempt to open slot machines at a racetrack in Gretna, a small town in Gadsden County, along the border with Georgia at the start of the Panhandle. Like Palm Beach and six other counties, citizens of Gadsden had voted to approve slot machines

The Gretna racetrack owners argued that such a county referendum allowed slots without the approval of state law. But in a 6-0 decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled otherwise. “There must be ‘statutory or constitutional authorization’ for any countywide referendum approving slot machines at qualifying pari-mutuel facilities,” wrote Justice Charles Canady in his 16-page opinion. “The authorization must be found elsewhere in the law. And it is nowhere to be found.”

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

 


A Brief Look at Crime 11/11 – 11/17

Suspect Arrested in Connection With Fatal Shooting of Man at ‘Illegal Gambling Establishment’

Investigators have arrested a man in Arizona on suspicion of fatally shooting another man at what police described as an “illegal gambling establishment” in Long Beach last month, authorities said Friday. Richard Allen Quintana, 31, of Long Beach was captured in Glendale, Arizona, in recent days and was extradited back to California Thursday to face a murder charge, according to Long Beach Police Department officials and Los Angeles County booking records. He was also being held on an unrelated warrant, as well as another warrant for violating the terms of Post-Release Community Supervision, or felony probation, stemming from a prior conviction. Patrol officers approached a crowd of people gathered on a sidewalk when a witness told them a man had been shot, police said. The victim, later identified as Akins, was taken to a hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds the next day. An autopsy determined Akins died from multiple gunshot wounds and the death was deemed a homicide, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records. Detectives determined the shooting took place inside a nearby illegal gambling parlor, but information regarding the circumstances or a motive were not released.

Shocking UK Gambling Commission Data Reveals 250-650 Gambling-related Suicides Every Year

The UK Gambling commission’s latest data reveals that annually about 250-650 people commit suicide due to gambling-related issues. The Gambling Commission also found that the British gamblers spend about £14.5bn on various gambling products each year. According to the figures released by UKGC, gamblers in the UK spent about $18 billion gambling in the past 12 months between October 2017and September 2018. Online gambling is fast becoming popular amongst UK gambling enthusiasts. Moreover, online gambling accounts for the majority of the money spent on gambling, followed by sports betting and the National Lottery. The gambling participation rate among adults has also been on the rise. Moreover, gambling addiction amongst children in the UK is at an all-time high. According to a recent UKGC report, the number of children facing compulsive gambling issues hace increased by four times in the past two years. Recently, to limit children’s access to gambling products and gambling adverts, theUk Gambling commission warned gambling operators urging them to make sure that their affiliate partners are not allowing users to get access to ‘free-to-play’ games without having age verifications. The UKGC reminded the operators that if a gambling operator is getting customers via an affiliate which is offering free to play games without having due age verification would amount to the violation of the code of conduct as per the license agreement.

Couple Accused of Stealing $1M From New Mexico Restaurant 

A New Mexico couple is accused of stealing more than $1 million from the Cattle Baron Restaurant in Roswell. The state attorney general’s office says Brian Casaus and his wife, Tammy, are facing numerous charges that include tax fraud and money laundering. Initial hearings for the couple are scheduled next week. Court records did not list attorneys for either defendant. Criminal complaints allege that Brian Casaus used his position as the restaurant’s controller and office manager to transfer funds from the restaurant’s bank account to personal accounts belonging to him and his wife. Tammy Casaus worked as the restaurant’s payroll coordinator. The alleged fraud happened between 2012 and 2016. Prosecutors say the money was used for personal expenses and to make payments to multiple credit cards and casinos.

Calgary woman sentenced to prison for embezzling $1.2M from employer

Years before she was ultimately charged in a $1.2-million embezzlement scheme, a former Calgary woman was ready to plead guilty, her lawyer said Monday. Defence counsel Peter Hoare said he was retained by Colleen Fay Dhuga shortly after she confessed in 2014 to stealing money from her employer to fund her gambling addiction. But Hoare said it was only in 2018 that she was ultimately charged.Hoare said his client wanted to plead guilty from the outset, in part to avoid causing Anderson any further pain. “Ms. Dhuga first confessed to the offence when confronted on March 11, 2014,” the lawyer said. “It’s been my instruction to deal with the matter, not put Mr. Anderson through anything more.” At Hoare’s request, Brown recommended Dhuga be allowed to serve her sentence at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women in Abbotsford, B.C., so she can be closer to her family, who now live in Kelowna. Dhuga pleaded guilty to defrauding cash from four companies owned by Anderson while working as controller. When she pleaded guilty in February, court was told Dhuga, 50, said: “I see you have discovered my gambling habit,” when confronted about the missing money.

Palm Beach County tech CEO used investors’ cash to pay gambling debts (FL)

A Palm Beach County businessman with a checkered past wooed investors with the promise that he’d create a competitor to popular coupon sites Groupon and LivingSocial. Instead of building a successful company, the SEC says, Parker misappropriated $4.6 million of investors’ cash. He used $2 million to pay off gambling debts at two Seminole casinos, the SEC said in a federal fraud suit filed this week. Meanwhile, because the Department of Justice hasn’t released the findings from its 2018 raid, much of what happened to Social Venture’s money is a mystery, Schneider said. “We still don’t have a complete accounting of money in and money out,” Schneider said.

Newark man admits fatally shooting fellow gambler near betting spot 

A Newark man who fatally shot a 26-year-old whom he was gambling with in Newark pleaded guilty to first degree aggravated manslaughter, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens announced Thursday. Robert Steele, 27, shot Hydee Wrice, also of Newark, at close range on Oct. 29, 2017. The two had been placing bets at an illegal gambling spot at the 100 block of Littleton Avenue in Newark, said the prosecutor on the case. The plea agreement accepted by Steele calls for him to be sentenced to 25 years in state prison. He would have to serve 85 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for parole. “While no amount of prison time can ever bring back the victim or rebuild the lives destroyed by this defendant’s cold-blooded killing, the interests of justice are served by this guilty plea which makes clear that society will not tolerate such conduct,” said Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Alex Albu. Wrice initially survived the shooting, but he died at University Hospital about two weeks later. He was shot just six days after his 26th birthday, according to his obituary.

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


Missouri to Propose Illegal Slot Machine Legislation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing evolution of the illegal slot machine dilemma Missouri has been facing. For years, illegal slot machines have been popping up all over the state, but little has been done to properly regulate them. The issue stems from the gaming commissions ability to only enforce legal gambling, leaving illegal gambling devices to be enforced by each locality. Only recently have area public prosecutors been attempting to shut down these sights, and many have entered the discussion this year. Now, after months of discussions, its being reported that Missouri Pro Tem David Schatz will be filing much needed legislation in hopes of finally providing a solution to an issue that has been plaguing the state for years now. An online source reports:

The Missouri Senate leader will file legislation in December in Jefferson City to increase penalties for alleged illegal slot machines, setting the slot machine issue up as a major one for the 2020 legislative session.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, told Missourinet on Wednesday that his legislation will enhance the penalties for the alleged illegal slot machines, which are also known as video lottery terminals (VLTs). They can be found in bars, restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.

Missouri’s first criminal case involving the alleged illegal slots will go to trial in December in western Missouri’s Platte County.

Pro Tem Schatz says the Missouri Gaming Commission has received multiple reports of sites that have these machines. The Missouri State Highway Patrol testified in October that the number of complaints it’s received about illegal gambling has increased from 39 in 2018 to at least 145 this year. Most of those complaints are about alleged illegal slots.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 11/04 – 11/10

Feds crack down on illegal gambling rooms 

Law enforcement agencies, including Homeland Security and HPD raided two homes, leading to charges against 15 suspects. Federal law enforcement officials say these arrests aren’t just about gambling. They’re tied to other crimes that affect others who live beyond the communities where the gambling houses are located. The federal agencies teamed up with HPD to confiscate illegal gambling machines Monday on Pupupuhi Street in Waipahu and Hoolehua Street in Pearl City. Both described as residential areas where illegal gambling has been going on since October last year. They’ve spread their tentacles into residential areas jeopardizing the safety and security of communities like Pearl City and Waipahu,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price. Officials say in many cases, money from these types of gambling operations IS used to finance organized crime. “Do not be fooled, the money that is collected at these gambling dens turns into narcotics for these organizations, it turns into guns for these organizations. It helps them promote other types of activities that hurt our community,” said John Tobon, Special Agent in Charge with Homeland Security Investigations. “The crime that we’re seeing, the guns, the stabbing, it always for the most part, 95% of the time is traced back to either illegal gambling or drug activity,” said HPD Chief Susan Ballard.

Garden Grove Church Treasurer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

A 64-year-old church treasurer pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $225,000 from a Garden Grove church and was immediately sentenced to five years of formal probation and time already served in custody, or 102 days, according to court records obtained Monday. Mauga pleaded guilty on Thursday to seven counts of grand theft with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white-collar crime between $100,000 to $500,000. As part of the plea deal, 13 other felony counts of grand theft were dismissed along with sentencing enhancements for property damage exceeding $200,000. Mauga was ordered to pay $227,152.14 in restitution — the amount of money taken from the First Christian Church of Garden Grove from 2013 through 2017, according to court records. Mauga began working as the church’s treasurer in 1978. She had access to church debit cards and would withdraw cash each week over several years, according to Garden Grove Detective Claudia Alarcon. Mauga told investigators she did so for “personal expenses and gambling,” Alarcon said.

Georgia Man Convicted of Counterfeit Gold Scam Appeals to 11th Circuit

A Georgia man sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for scamming internet customers out of nearly $800,000 in a scheme involving counterfeit gold and silver coins asked an 11th Circuit panel Tuesday to reconsider his sentence. Stacy Paul Waddell was sentenced to serve 183 months in prison for wire fraud, selling counterfeit coins and tampering with official proceedings. He was convicted in August 2016 of duping customers who wanted to purchase gold and silver bullion coins and using their money to gamble in casinos, and he was ordered to make restitution payments to more than 30 victims amounting to $841,000. Waddell promised customers that the gold and silver could be delivered quickly to get them to immediately wire transfer money into bank accounts he controlled. He used the money to gamble in Hard Rock Casinos in Florida and purchase expensive clothes. He never delivered the promised shipments to his victims.

Conman, 66, is jailed for nine years after he stole £1.4million from his own companies and spent it on gambling

A conman who stole £1.4million from his own companies and spent it on gambling debts, holidays and cars, has finally been locked up after 15 years on the run. Christopher Woodhead, 66, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, was caught on the Costa Del Sol in Spain. Between 1997 and 1999 the conman ran chemical paint companies targeting elderly and vulnerable people, and milked them for cash. Using fictitious invoices, loans and direct cash transfers to move money between his companies, he illicitly withdrew nearly £450,000. The swindler splurged the money on a variety of personal expenses, such as his ex-wife’s maintenance payments, and also used his ill-gotten gains to buy a Range Rover and spent money on property, holidays and gambling debts.

Jail Time For 3 Morris Co. Men In Mob Gambling Scheme

hree men from Morris County were sentenced to jail time on Friday for their roles in a Genovese crime family-linked gambling ring, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. The three men, Vito Alberti, 60, of Morristown, Domenick Pucillo, 61, of Florham Park, and anuel Rodriguez, 54, of Chatham, pleaded guilty to the charges against them in May. They were part of a group of six sentenced for their role in the ring on Friday. The six men were accused of helping run a loan shark operation that netted $4.7 million in interest, a multi-million dollar offshore gambling ring, and unlicensed check cashing business that made $9 million and enabled money laundering, and tax fraud and evasion, Grewal said. All of the illegal operations went to fund “tribute” payments that went to those higher-up in the Genovese family chain of command. “When those involved in traditional organized crime engage in schemes such as loansharking and illegal gambling, they profit at the expense of victims who are struggling with debt, gambling problems, and other issues,” Grewal said. “By prosecuting the men who ran these schemes and putting key defendants behind bars, we send a message that we will not tolerate these corrosive criminal activities that harm individuals, families and society as a whole.”

Woman who stole $200,000 from Silver Reef Casino and made bomb threat sentenced

A Bellingham woman was sentenced to time served and two years supervised release Friday, Sept. 20, in U.S. District Court in Seattle after using her employee access to steal $200,000 from the Lummi Nation’s Silver Reef Casino. Shannon Marie Morris, a Lummi Nation member, pleaded guilty to one count of theft by an employee of a gaming establishment on Native American lands in July after she stole the money from the vault on Nov. 24. According to a Department of Justice press release, Morris was sentenced to 10 months in prison, which she has already served, and the supervised release. Because of the bomb threat, Lummi, Bellingham and Ferndale police, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI were forced to evacuate the hotel and casino, though a bomb was never found. While being questioned by law enforcement, Morris’ statement changed several times, the release said, after she originally stated that the strange man with a gun held her and her child hostage to force her to steal money from the casino. She later admitted being alone with her child in the car and to stealing the money, before leading law enforcement to where she had hidden the money in Ferndale near a tree on the side of the road.

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


Florida seeks dismissal of Greyhound Industry’s lawsuit aimed at Amendment 13

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Florida greyhound landscape and the most recent voter vote to ban greyhound racing. Recently, a lawsuit was filed by the industry claiming the government was taking its property with the new law. This particular angle was likely the only one lawyers though they might have a reasonable chance of winning considering how overwhelming the vote was in favor of banning greyhound racing by the people. The fact that the people voted to stop this form of gambling, is exactly why Florida has asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit. An online source explains:

Attorney General Ashley Moody, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have asked a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit challenging a 2018 constitutional amendment that banned greyhound racing in Florida. Members of the greyhound industry alleged in the legal challenge that they were denied due process after voters approved the amendment.

But on Friday, state lawyers asked the federal court to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs “cannot sue the governor or member of his Cabinet over a proper vote taken by the people of Florida.” The court does not have the authority to grant an injunction because “there is in fact no government action to stop,” Moody’s lawyers argued.

In addition, the state argued that gambling on dog racing is a “privilege,” and not a property right, as the plaintiffs maintained. If the court does not dismiss the case, the state asked that it be moved from the Southern District of Florida to Tallahassee.

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