A Brief Look at Crime 10/26 – 11/01

COVID-19 benefit payments spent on poker machines as gambling hits record high in Queensland

Gambling on poker machines has hit a record high in Queensland since venues reopened, with data from the Office of Liquor and Gaming showing almost $293 million spent in July and similar amounts in every month since. That’s compared to $161 million spent statewide in February before the machines were turned off. In some regional areas gambling has doubled, including Mount Isa where $4.5 million was spent in July, compared with $2 million in February. Cairns saw $17 million put through the machines in July, compared with $8 million in February. Players in Goondiwindi spent $810,000, compared with $366,000 for the same periods. The Alliance For Gambling Reform had urged the State Government to keep poker machines switched off, arguing the forced hiatus created a unique opportunity for industry, economic and social reform. But on July 10, more than 45,000 approved electronic gaming machines (EGMs) lit up again across the state. CQ University Professor Matthew Rockloff has studied gambling habits during COVID-19 and said the four-month break had not stopped people’s propensity to gamble. “People haven’t taken strong advantage in this break in play,” Dr Rockloff said. “It is disappointing to see that people are coming back to the machines in such numbers that suggests people are spending too much.”

Florida man charged with scamming investors out of $6.8M in crypto trading scheme

A Florida businessman has been charged with scamming investors through a $6.8 million digital asset trading scheme, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced on Tuesday. According to the court complaint filed in federal court in Miami, Thomas J. Gity allegedly received funding from at least 18 investors by pretending to be a “high-profitable asset trader who never lost money during a trading day.” Gity was accused of providing fake account statements to investors to trick them into thinking he was managing as much as $100 million in assets. Per the complaint, Gity told investors he would use their funding to trade digital assets, but only transferred $970,000 of the $6.8 million he received into trading accounts. Gity allegedly transferred over $1.8 million of the funds to his son and for personal expenses and gambling.

Mum stole £100,000 from her Truro employer to feed online gambling habit 

A mother of three has been jailed after stealing £100,000 from her former employer to feed her spiralling gambling addiction. Pennell, who has since moved to Wolverhampton, appeared at Truro Crown Court for sentence having pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud. Prosecuting the case, Adrian Chaplin told the court how Pennell was employed in a position of trust with nobody to oversee her, and stole £100,988 from her employer. The fraud started within four months of her employment when she was given access to bank accounts and authorised to make payments. She was paid a basic wage of £20,000 but Mr Chaplin described how her crime saw her take home effectively double that each month.

Offshore Internet Sports Betting Company Agrees to Forfeit Over $46.8 Million in Proceeds to Resolve Criminal Investigation

5Dimes was previously owned and operated by Varela’s husband, William Sean Creighton, a U.S. citizen who moved to Costa Rica, where he created and operated 5Dimes in violation of U.S. law. From at least 2011 until approximately September 24, 2018, Creighton exercised full and exclusive control over 5Dimes, although he hid his control over the company by utilizing an alias and operating the business through several shell companies. In September 2018, Creighton was kidnapped and subsequently murdered. Over a year later, Creighton’s remains were discovered and positively identified in Costa Rica; Creighton’s death has been ruled a homicide by Costa Rican authorities.

Beginning in approximately May 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), began investigating Creighton and 5Dimes for possible violations of federal criminal laws including, but not limited to, illegal gambling, money laundering, wire fraud, and other related offenses. During Creighton’s lifetime, Varela, a Costa Rican citizen, was never employed as a manager at 5Dimes, nor did she exercise any control over the operations of 5Dimes. Following Creighton’s death, Varela assumed responsibility for 5Dimes assets, but did not exercise day-to-day authority over the operations of 5Dimes. Varela subsequently took control of 5Dimes and sought to resolve the federal investigation and change the operations of the company in a manner that complies with U.S. law. In order to resolve the federal investigation of 5Dimes (which continued after Creighton’s kidnapping), Varela and 5Dimes have entered into a settlement agreement with the EDPA in which they have agreed to forfeit more than $46.8 million and acknowledged that those funds are the proceeds of various unlawful gambling-related offenses.

Security guards shoot, kill armed suspect at Las Vegas resort

An armed man who fired his gun was shot and killed by security officers at a south Las Vegas Boulevard resort Sunday evening, according to Metro Police. Before the guards opened fire, the unidentified suspect had fired his gun near the valet area, and pointed the weapon at them multiple times, Lt. Ray Spencer said. The shooting occurred about 4:30 p.m. at the South Point, 9777 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Spencer said. The suspect, who was described as a white man who appeared to be homeless, walked into the property about an hour before the shooting, Spencer said. As he left the property, the man pulled out a gun, prompting security to respond, Spencer said. The man left through the valet area, walked a short distance, and shot the gun into the air, Spencer said. The guards engaged him as he tinkered with the gun, which he then aimed at them, Spencer said. They didn’t immediately fire because their backdrop was the valet area, he added, praising their restraint. They then repositioned themselves, and when the man pointed the gun again, they opened fire, striking him multiple times, Spencer said. The entire incident was captured on clear surveillance images, Spencer said.

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