A Brief Look at Crime 01/13 – 01/19

Bookkeeper who stole $300K from employer gets a year in prison

A former bookkeeper for a marine towing and transportation company based on Bainbridge Island was sentenced last week to a year and a day in prison after pleading guilty to stealing about $300,000 to fuel her gambling addiction. Employees of Star Marine wrote in Kitsap County Superior Court documents that the damage done by Tonya Jeanette Hunt, 40, of Poulsbo, not only hurt the company but amounted to a personal betrayal to people who had trusted her. The embezzlement was first discovered in November 2018 when the company’s bank called an employee to notify him some checks written from the company’s account were not going to clear. Hunt confessed at that time that she had been stealing and adjusting the company’s financial software to hide the missing money, according to court documents. Hunt turned over a spreadsheet that documented the money she had stolen, which found to be more than $290,000. When interviewed by a Bainbridge Island police investigators, Hunt said she used the money to fund her gambling addiction. Hunt worked for the company for about 2 ½ years.

Former Citizens National Bank officer serving federal sentence for theft

A former bank officer at Citizens National Bank in Brownwood who admitted to embezzling just under $1.86 million is serving a 51-month federal sentence, court documents from U.S. District Court in San Angelo Show. Dawn Bennett, 44, of Bangs, admitted to gambling with embezzled funds at Oklahoma casinos and was ordered to pay $1,859,915 in restitution, court documents state. Bennett was sentenced on Oct. 4 by U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman. Bennett pleaded guilty on May 30 to engaging in a monetary transaction with property derived from a specified unlawful activity, court documents state. The guilty plea stemmed from Bennett’s visit on July 12, 2018 to the WinStar Casino, an Indian gaming operation, where she inserted $58,185 in slot machines, court documents state. Bennett “admits and agrees that each bet at the WinStar Casino” on that date was made with funds she embezzled from Citizens National Bank and concealed through false entries in the books, court documents state.

Hawaiian Gardens casino to pay California $3.15 million, admits misleading regulators

The Gardens Casino, a card room that underpins the one-square-mile city of Hawaiian Gardens, has agreed to pay $3.15 million to settle allegations brought by the California attorney general’s office that the casino’s operators made no mention of a federal probe and resultant $2.8-million penalty when applying to renew its license. California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s deputies had asked state regulators to revoke licenses for the casino and its owners, alleging that in September 2016 its operators falsely told state gambling authorities they have “always been engaged in honest and frank dialogue with regulators.” Casino operators neglected to mention that two months earlier, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, had handed the casino a $2.8-million penalty for violating the Bank Secrecy Act, a federal law meant to counteract money laundering, a deputy attorney general wrote. FinCEN is a federal agency within the Treasury Department that monitors for money laundering and other financial crimes. In exchange for keeping their licenses, the casino’s owners — ChernaMoskowitz, wife of the card room’s late founder, Irving Moskowitz, and Irving’s son, David — agreed to pay a $3.15-million penalty and complete a two-year compliance period. The state gambling commission approved the settlement Thursday.

New Jersey Online Gaming Operators Fined $153K Last Month for Regulatory Failures

New Jersey online gaming operators were fined by state regulators more than $150,000 last month for compliance shortcomings. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) issued $153,500 in civil penalties for various regulatory infractions on behalf of the licensed interactive companies. NYX Digital Gaming (USA) and NYX Digital Gaming (Americas) – entities controlled by parent SG Digital, a global online gaming, sports, and lottery provider – were hit with the bulk of the penalties. The companies were issued a $100,000 fine for operating unapproved software in the state. DGE Director David Rebuck said in the order that the company deployed “versions of three games that were not the versions tested and approved by the Division.” In a separate order, Rebuck said there was “sufficient and legal support” to additionally penalize the two NYX Digital companies $10,000 for their compliance deficiencies.

Ex-Casino Dealer Gets Prison for Role in Cheating Plot 

A man who worked as a baccarat dealer at a Maryland casino has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in a scheme to cheat the house out of just over $1 million, according to prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm also on Wednesday sentenced Ming Zhang, 32, of Alexandria, Virginia, to three years of supervised release after his prison term and ordered him to pay full restitution, U.S. Attorney Robert Hur’s office said in a news release. Zhang had faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison after he pleaded guilty in September 2018 to one count of conspiring to transport stolen funds. Zhang worked for MGM National Harbor near Washington, D.C. Zhang’s role in the plot to cheat the casino was to notify an alleged co-conspirator when he was scheduled to deal baccarat. When that person arrived at his table in September 2017, Zhang exposed part of a baccarat deck to the player, who photographed the unshuffled cards before placing large bets on hands, a court filing said. Knowing the order of cards in a deck allows bettors to predict the outcome of baccarat hands with near-perfect accuracy.

Former casino director of benefits accused of stealing $75K in gift cards

The former director of benefits for Penn National Gaming is facing charges after authorities say she stole and used more than $75,000 worth of gift cards intended for the company’s employees. According to a news release from the Berks County district attorney’s office, Denise M. Bitler, 56, of Collegeville is facing charges that include theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, theft by deception, access device fraud, unlawful use of a computer and receiving stolen property. Bitler was responsible for ordering, maintaining and distributing the gift cards to the human resource officer at the company’s casinos and racetracks, who would then distribute them to employees. Detectives learned Bitler used many of the gift cards for personal use on vacations and for medical bills and retail purchases. Further, detectives say, she defrauded the company out of another $1,200 per year for two years by saying in medical enrollment forms that she and her family members were nonsmokers when they were actually smokers, avoiding a $50 per month, per person charge.

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