A Brief Look at Crime 8/10 – 8/16

Tennesseans Among Top Traffickers of Birds to Guam, Mexico, and the Philippines for Illegal Cockfighting

The three Tennessee-based operators who signed shipping records, obtained by AWA and AWF, to Guam are Lee Best of Athens, Ronnie Patterson of Manchester, and Tom Wilson, also of Athens. Shipments to Guam are just indicators of a far brisker trade in fighting birds to other jurisdictions, including Mexico, the Philippines, and other global cockfighting hotspots. Mr. Patterson even hosted two Guamanian cockfighters on his farm, according to images obtained by AWA and AWF. The shippers who sold to Guam typically use the U.S. Postal Service to transport the birds, packing the live animals into boxes and sending them 8,000 miles from Tennessee to Guam in the cargo holds with multiple stops and without food or water.

Tennessee is only one of eight states without felony-level penalties for cockfighting, despite a long history of illegal animal fighting. The FBI shut down two major cockfighting complexes in Cocke County in 2005, asserting that local law enforcement there had been corrupted and cockfighting was tied together with prostitution, narcotics, chop shops, and gambling by children. Some years later, there was a series of other cockfighting pits raided but the fighting and the possession of animals for fighting thrives, and prior law enforcement actions have not been sufficient to deter the crimes. Possessing and shipping birds for cockfighting have been banned under federal law since 2002 and has been a felony since 2007, when President George W. Bush signed the enhanced penalty provisions into law and also criminalized the sale of cockfighting implements.

‘Persistent’ cockfighting in eastern Tennessee worrisome during the COVID-19 pandemic, animal welfare officials say 

“It’s much more than just a couple of birds fighting,” he said. “This is a very, very violent activity … as a legislator … I am disappointed in the findings.” The groups wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey for the Eastern District of Tennessee urging him to investigate three breeders — two from Athens and one from Manchester. Many of the birds are outfitted with knives before fighting begins and drugs are often bought and sold at the cockfights, Sen. Lundberg said.

Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, said many diseases that afflict human beings start in animals and jump the species barrier, which is called zoonotic transmission. For example, COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease thought to have originated in Chinese horseshoe bats before spreading to humans, possibly with a stop in a different animal in-between. The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 was caused by an influenza virus with genes of avian origin, and the world’s last flu pandemic — the H1N1 swine flu pandemic of 2009 — began when a virus jumped from pigs to humans.

85-year-old involved in illegal sports gambling ring pleads guilty

This past February, ten people were indicted in the U.S. for their participation in an illegal sports gambling ring out of Illinois, including the mayor of Mattawa, Casey Urlacher. Urlacher is the brother of Brian Urlacher, a former linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and is also a former linebacker from the Arena Football League. Involved in the activity was Eugene “Geno” DelGiudice, who has now had his day in court, virtually due to the coronavirus.  The 85-year-old appeared before a judge last Thursday, pleading guilty for his creative entrepreneurship. DelGiudice will have to wait until this October to find out what will happen to him, and he could face up to five years behind bars. 

[L]aw enforcement officials served a warrant on “Uncle Mick’s” home, where they discovered over $1.1 million in cash, around $500,000 in jewelry and bars of pure silver. It isn’t clear from the news offered by the Chicago Sun-Times if all of the assets came from the illegal gambling outfit, but the odds are good. DelGiudice admitted to the judge that the sportsbook intermediary had been operating from 2016 to 2019 and that it had generated millions of dollars in revenue.

Wirecard: Disgraced Payment Processor Accused of Transaction Laundering for Online Gambling

Embattled German payments processor Wirecard was suspected of using bogus online stores to hide illegal gambling transactions. Munich-based Wirecard filed for insolvency last month amid allegations of fraud and financial wrongdoing. In June, auditor Ernst and Young discovered that €1.9 billion ($2.15 billion USD) was “missing” from company coffers, which led to the immediate resignation of CEO Markus Braun. Just days later, the Wirecard board announced that the “prevailing likelihood” was that the €1.9 billion never existed at all. On June 22, a criminal investigation was launched amid suspicion that Wirecard’s accounts had been falsified to artificially inflate the company’s assets and sales. That was designed to make it more attractive to investors and customers. Munich prosecutors arrested Braun on the same day.

The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006 (UIGEA) makes it an offense for a financial institution to process payments for online gambling where it is illegal under federal or state law. Paul Paolucci — a vice-president at Mastercard, and Howard Fields, head of anti-money laundering — “received evidence that their network was allegedly being compromised by transaction laundering,” according to The Times.

Convicted Aurora bookmaker must forfeit more than $600,000 in proceeds from gambling ring

An Aurora bookmaker must forfeit more than $600,000 that authorities found in his home, proceeds that they say came from a large-scale gambling ring. U.S. District Judge Patricia Gaughan on Wednesday sentenced Ryan Driscoll, 46, to probation for three years on charges of money laundering, filing a false tax return and operating an illegal gambling business.  Gaughan also ordered him to pay $208,693 in restitution. That is in addition to the $628,950 that agents seized during a search warrant of his home last August. Prosecutors said in documents that Driscoll had large quantities of cash in bundles of $10,000. Prosecutors said that Driscoll underreported his income by more than $825,000 for the tax years 2014 through 2017. He filed a false income tax return in 2018 that prosecutors said failed to mention the proceeds from his illegal gambling business.

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