Monthly Archives: January 2022

Legalized Sports Betting in Florida via Initiative Petition takes turn as Fraudulent Signatures are being Alleged

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida.  Most recently, a gambling compact between Florida and the Seminoles was shut down by a Federal Judge over the provision to legalize sports betting.  Florida law requires any new gambling to be approved by the voters, and that compact side-stepped the will of the people.  The solution by those pushing for legalized sports betting then, is to bring the issue before the people via initiative petition.  To get on the ballot, a certain amount of signatures is required by a certain deadline and it was very clear that even after millions of dollars had been spent, those pushing the petitions were woefully short of the required signature.  So perhaps it’s not surprising that after an unexpected and sudden surge of signatures as the deadline neared, election supervisors would raise serious fraud concerns.  The Miami-Herald is reporting on what could be one of the largest election fraud attempts ever with these petitions:

Tallahassee Florida could be in the midst of one of the largest cases of election-related fraud in recent history. Across the state, elections supervisors say they have been sent thousands of fraudulent petition forms supporting a constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming in the state. Although the forms are supposed to reflect real Floridians voicing support for a change to the state’s Constitution, many include the names of dead people or the forged signatures of real voters.

The number of suspicious or hard-to-verify petitions has buried county elections supervisors and their staffs trying to sort through them. In one case, Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox found both his and his wife’s signatures forged on petition forms. 

Adding to the fraudulent claims is the fact that petition gathers are seemingly being paid per signature, which is illegal in Florida.  The Miami-Herald continues: 

Organizers for the Tribe have also alleged in court documents that organizers for Las Vegas Sands have been paying petition circulators based on the number of signatures they collect, which is a first-degree misdemeanor under state law punishable by up to a year in jail. They’ve produced contracts and affidavits from people who worked on the company’s petition drive.

One of those people signed an affidavit stating he was hired to gather signatures, and his contract stated he was paid $450,000 for every 25,000 petitions he submitted, up to $2.7 million. Another person, Larry Laws, was hired by a different company to produce signature-gatherers for the effort. His affidavit states that while the contracts stated that employees would be paid hourly, instead of per signature, petition circulators would also be paid a “bonus” of $2,500 for every 300 signatures, which was not in the contract. 

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/17 – 01/23

Hilton Former Revenue Manager Arrested in $28M Hotel Room Fraud 

Denny Bhakta used casinos to launder the money that he illegally obtained. He offered investors opportunities that are just too good to pass. He alleged in fake documents that he’s tied to Hilton and United Airlines. Denny Bhakta, who was an ex-Hilton San Diego Bayfront revenue manager, was arrested on Tuesday after allegedly defrauding investors of around $28 million. As the FBI reports, the San Diego man used a discount scheme involving bogus hotel room blocks and laundered the money through well-known casinos in Las Vegas, such as The Cosmopolitan and ARIA, the Department of Justice states in a press release.

In the SEC complaint, the phrase “money laundering” is avoided and instead, it is just stated that the money was used for gambling purposes. Suzanne Turner, FBI Special Agent in Charge, stated that this case will be a warning to all those who intend to participate in these types of activities and noted that the FBI will work with the SEC to make sure that investment fraud is rooted out.

Woman Steals $240K to Fuel Gambling Addiction, Found Guilty of Wire Fraud

A former teacher pleaded guilty to wire fraud last week, announced the Department of Justice in Georgia. The woman embezzled some $240,000 which was used to help recover from gambling losses and fuel her gambling addiction. The investigation uncovered that the woman diverted many contributions from different organizations to her account. Before her job as a teacher, Trice worked as a volunteer campaign coordinator at the UNCF between 2005 and 2017. The investigators found that while at UNCF, she diverted many small contributions to her account. Suspicious of embezzlement, the UNCF ended her relationship with Trice. Investigators uncovered that she had stopped working at the dental office due to similar allegations. “Trenna Trice abused the trust of two non-profits, a small business and many individual citizens when   she chose to steal money intended for others to fund her gambling addiction.”

Former state worker sentenced for embezzling more than $855,000 from environment department

A former state employee has been sentenced to one year in jail and three years of probation for embezzling more than $800,000 from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. While working with EGLE as an environmental quality specialist, Joseph Pettit helped release bond money back to companies that had drilled in or operated a mineral well in Michigan and facilitated transfers of money back to its original owner, according to the Attorney General’s Office. He also created fake vendors and diverted the bond money into his personal bank accounts, according to the AG’s office. Pettit said some of his issues stemmed from a gambling addiction, for which he is now seeking treatment.

Devils Lake eye doctor employee accused of stealing $350k to gamble

The business manager at a Devils Lake eye clinic is facing potential jail time after investigators say she embezzled more than a quarter of a million dollars. According to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Nancy Weaver took nearly $350,000 in cash deposits from the office of Drs. Krein and Moen over a six-year period starting in 2014. They say she lost almost all of it while gambling at the Spirit Lake Casino. If convicted, Weaver could get up to 20 years in prison.

Innocent New York Townhouse Really a Brothel, Gambling Den, Lawsuit Asserts

A townhouse in the Murray Hill section of New York City is a “den of iniquity”. It has been converted into a members-only club operating 24 hours a day. A lawsuit hopes to have the operations shut down. A townhouse worth nearly $7 million in the Murray Hill neighborhood of New York City has been converted into a club for members only by squatters. The residents of the townhouse host a brothel, poker games and after-hours parties. Now, a lawsuit hopes to get them evicted.

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

Florida Seminole Gaming Compact Court Ruling will be Appealed by Federal Government

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of renewing the Florida Seminole gambling compact and the detrimental decision to attempt to legalize sports betting through its latest draft.  Given the state of Florida doesn’t already have legalized sports betting, attempts to legalize it outside of any tribal casino would face immediate legal scrutiny. That was the case when a Federal Judge struck down the agreement as it attempted to allow anyone in the state to take part in sports gambling claiming it was restricted to tribal land because the computer servers were on tribal land.  The Judge called that argument fiction as its clearly irrelevant where the computers are located and the key factor would be if the gamblers were actually on tribal land or not. Despite the plain language and clear interpretation of the law here, it does appear politics is still attempting to win out.  As Florida Politics is reporting, the Feds are now officially appealing the court’s decision:

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has notified a federal court that she and the Department of Interior intend to appeal the November court decision that struck down internet sports betting and Florida’s 2022 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Haaland filed her notice to appeal the decision Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The actual appeal is set to be filed by Saturday with the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit.

The federal government’s argument would have to convince the Appeals Court that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives the Department of Interior authority to approve Florida’s Gaming Compact at a federal level in August, even if the Compact allows bets to be placed outside tribal lands.

The notice itself does not reveal what arguments Haaland and the federal government might be preparing to make.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/10 – 12/16

Integrity of Sports Put at Risk by $1.7 Trillion in Illegal Bets, U.N. Says

Criminals are using the wagers to launder money globally. Illicit online operators use cryptocurrencies to hide actions. Illegal betting on sports may approach $1.7 trillion annually and is often used by criminals to launder money, according to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The estimate dwarfs the legal sports wagering market, which is about $40 billion, according to the report  released Thursday. The increasing number and types of bets are complicating efforts by law enforcement to squash illegal wagering, as is a proliferation of rogue online operators using cryptocurrencies to disguise who is gambling.

Illegal gambling strips sport of its positive, transformative power, the report said, risking its ability to teach and inspire young people. “In our increasingly globalized world, sport is exposed to complex risks posed by corrupt actors who seek to exploit it   for illicit gain,” Ghada Waly, executive director of the office, said in her introduction to the report.

$3 million in marijuana seized after assault at NC casino 

Police in North Carolina seized around $3 million worth of marijuana Thursday morning following an assault at a casino. According to the Cherokee Indian Police Department, officers were originally called to a domestic violence incident at the Harrah’s   Cherokee Valley River Casino. Police said officers found a man and woman near the entrance to the casino hotel and determined that the man had assaulted the woman. That man, 27-year-old Brandon Thomas Jones of Tennessee, was arrested and charged with assault on a female and possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia. Officers said that a U-Haul truck with a Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians license plate arrived to pick up the victim. The driver then gave officers consent to search the vehicle, police said. Inside the U-Haul, police said they found over 900 pounds of marijuana, multiple loaded syringes, and two guns.

Online Gambling Spree by Detroit Sergeant Fueled By Prisoner ATM Cards: Prosecutor

A former sergeant for the Detroit Police Department (DPD) who embezzled more than $30,000 after stealing ATM cards meant for inmates in his custody faces up to ten years in prison if convicted. Derek Loranger used the money for online gambling, according to prosecutors. At his arraignment Friday, Loranger pleaded not guilty to one count of embezzlement, one count of using a computer to commit a crime, one count of misconduct in office, and 10 counts of possession of a stolen financial transaction device. According to court documents, the 23-year DPD veteran worked at the Detroit Detention Center. When detainees were brought in, they would surrender cash that would be fed into an ATM. On their release, they would receive an ATM card loaded with the equivalent sum. Loranger is accused of stealing ten of these ATM cards between January and August of 2021 and loading them with cash. He then plowed the money into “multiple” online gambling sites.

Birmingham fraudster stole life savings from retired nurse 

A man posed as a lawyer and claimed to have cancer to defraud a pensioner of almost £250,000. Shahbaz Queshri 30, befriended the retired nurse and claimed he would help her recover lost funds after a bad investment. The money had been to help her disabled son live more independently but Queshri, of Birmingham, then spent up to £50K a day on online gambling sites. He was jailed for five years and four months after admitting fraud. The 78-year-old victim has had to re-mortgage her house and is still having to work after losing a total of £236,955 over an 18-month period, West Midlands Police said. Her family said Queshri, of Olorenshaw Road, had destroyed her retirement and she was suffering from anxiety, sleepless nights and worry.

Ex-Jets wide receiver sentenced to 3 years in prison for COVID relief fraud

A Florida federal court sentenced former Jets wide receiver Josh Bellamy to 37 months in prison on Friday for illegally acquiring $1.2 million in loans meant to help struggling businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Associated Press. Bellamy’s sentencing comes 15 months after he was arrested for his role in a fraud scheme involving 10 other people. The Jets released him a day before his arrest but had no knowledge of Bellamy’s off-field transgressions, per an ESPN report from 2020. Bellamy pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Court records claim Bellamy received a $1.2 million Paycheck Protection Program loan for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, with falsified documents. He then used the money on items for himself and allegedly spent more than $100,000 of his PPP money at Dior, Gucci and jewelry stores, as well as at least $362,000 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

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

Missouri Sports Teams and Casinos Push Legislation to Make Sports Betting Legal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed attempts at legalizing sports gambling in Missouri.  However, as more and more states and sports teams join the gambling craze, teams that once stood against gambling on their sports are now being seduced by the money and allure.  As such, this year’s joint efforts to push legislation in Missouri are no real surprise.  As being reported by an online sports blog, this unity of teams has now extended to deals with casinos:

Six Missouri pro sports teams and existing casino operators in the state came to an agreement Wednesday to back sports betting legislation that would allow for statewide mobile wagering tethered to existing gaming locations. The agreement is the first of its kind in the U.S., where operators and professional franchises will be walking in lockstep in an effort to get a sports betting bill legalized.

According to an industry source, the MLB St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals, NHL St. Louis Blues, MLS St. Louis City Soccer Club, NFL Kansas City Chiefs, and National Women’s Soccer League Kansas City Current will each be entitled to a skin or mobile platform under the agreement, but not a retail location.

Past attempts have always failed, and it’s possible the group believes it’s the additional gambling expansion legislation of video lottery terminals in the legislation that causes the efforts to die.  As such, they are taking a different approach and only supporting legislation that deals with sports betting in a vacuum.  The online source continues:

Missouri lawmakers have been trying to legalize sports betting nearly since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. Sen. Denny Hoskins has been at the leading edge of the charge, though he has traditionally linked video lottery terminals (VLTs) s and sports betting. Ahead of this session, Hoskins filed two bills — one that includes VLTs and one that does not. In both versions, the Missouri Lottery would be the regulator.

As part of the pro team-casino proposal, an industry source said, the coalition agreed to oppose any bill that includes legalized video lottery terminals.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 01/03 – 01/09

San Antonio couple describes Eagle Pass casino shooting chaos 

A San Antonio couple at the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel in Eagle Pass when gunshots were fired described the hour they spent terrified and uncertain of what was happening. Sara Almaraz and Rene Juarez captured the moment when a fun casino trip turned into chaos Sunday. “We just heard screaming. When I was running, people were like bumping into me, and then people’s cell phones were falling,” Almaraz said. “We didn’t know if we were running in the right direction. I didn’t even realize I was still recording until we were outside.” 

“The shooter went to the parking garage, which is exactly where we were standing, so we were like, ‘oh shoot.’ And that’s when they were telling everyone to come inside. I think that’s when they realized that he was outside,” Almaraz said. mTheir group moved to multiple locations during the ordeal while even the hotel rooms were evacuated. “There was probably about 500 people. We heard there was groups in the front, the side, the back of the casino, with guards. They did not want to let us leave even to our cars. They said, ‘We don’t know where he’s at,’” Juarez said.

Alleged Gambling Addict Sentenced to Life in Prison for Wife’s New Hampshire Murder

Prosecutors claim Argie was in debt and close to bankruptcy due to his gambling addiction, according to published reports. His family had tried to conduct an intervention with him with the hope of him addressing his behavior, news media reported. Maureen Argie was attempting to divorce him at the time of the homicide. She was also seeking custody of the children and felt threatened by her husband. William Argie’s fellow gambler, James Timbas, claimed that Argie tried to hire him to kill Maureen Argie. It was to appear like a suicide, he said. In return, Timbas would receive part of her $400,000 life insurance policy under the alleged scheme. Timbas refused to take part in the plot.

Insurance Agent Sentenced to 2 Years in Wire Fraud Case

A Snohomish, Washington, insurance agent was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud in the theft of premium payments from clients. Vicki Boser, owner of InsuranceTek, Inc., pleaded guilty in August. At her sentencing Tuesday, she was also ordered to pay $273,137 in restitution to eight companies or insurance brokers she defrauded. Boser used the money to support her gambling habit at area casinos, federal prosecutors said in a press release. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart likened the conduct to a Ponzi scheme saying, “The conduct is classic in terms of embezzling from clients.”

18 people nabbed in statewide gambling scheme, Seminole County sheriff says (FL)

Eighteen people allegedly involved in an illegal countywide casino operation were arrested Wednesday following a months-long investigation into a scheme involving gamblers who were mostly people “living on a fixed income,” Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma told reporters. The charges include racketeering and running an illegal lottery, both felonies, along with keeping a house of gaming and possessing and delivery of gaming machines. All 18 suspects will be charged in connection to establishing and running eight game centers throughout the county.

Photos released by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office show many of the establishments were located in strip plazas where they “had either no markings at all or a misrepresentation of what the business was,” Lemma said, including a pawn shop and a marketing business. Inside were video games, computers and other equipment that turned the rooms inside the businesses into small casinos.

‘Trusted’ secretary embezzled £90k from construction firm to fund gambling habit 

A “trusted” secretary who embezzled £90,000 from a construction firm to fund her gambling habit is selling her home in order to avoid prison. Andrea Cochrane, 52, worked as a bookkeeper for more than 30 years, but was stealing thousands in order to maintain a £700-a-day gambling addiction. Horrified bosses at A Steel & Son Contractors in East Kilbride, discovered a string of bogus payments and fired her, the Daily Record reports. After an initial payment of £2,500 had been queried, a review discovered £28,000 had been made to an accountancy firm when it should only have been £10,000. Investigations revealed Cochrane had labelled a series of high value transactions as ‘Turner Accountancy’ but had used the details of her own account to pocket the cash. Cochrane, of Bellshill, Lanarkshire, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court and admitted embezzling £90,000 between January and July 2019. Sheriff John Speir deferred sentence after being told her family home was going on the market next month. Alan Murray, defending, said: “She should have sought help from someone for her problems but instead turned to drink and gambling.

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

Guest Article:  Murphy v. NCAA – Wrongly decided by the Supreme Court (And Here’s Why)

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the many failed attempts to legalize sports betting over the past decade as well as the sudden reversal of decades of legal precedent by the Supreme Court that opened the floodgates to legalized gambling all over the country.  The case in question is Murphy v. NCAA and this month’s Illinois Law Review  guest article argues why the case was wrongly decided.  Michael Fagan, Adjunct Professor, Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, MO; Counsel, St. Louis Fusion Center; Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, 2019–2020, and Assistant U.S. Attorney, 1983–2008, brings these and other exemplary credentials to the table when breaking down the case:

This Article argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in Murphy v. NCAA1 failed to convincingly establish sufficient cause to upset the Constitution’s allocation to the federal government of protective, supervisory, and prohibitive powers over interstate and foreign commerce. These powers necessarily require an ability to preclude non-federal entities from undercutting national policy. The Murphy majority’s failure is especially evident when the form of interstate commerce addressed by federal legislation involved in that case addressed a historical vice—commercialized gambling, not mere social or charitable gambling—that provably (i) adversely impacts public health and workplace productivity, (ii) increases instances and risks of corruption in government and to historically-treasured national commerce, such as professional and amateur sports, and (iii) employs means that cannot be adequately policed in the Internet era. The Murphy majority opinion relied upon those Justices’ personal perception of what federalism requires. In doing so, they elevated their personal opinions over the plain words of the Federal Constitution. Those Justices, like the commercialized gambling industry, may have disagreed with PASPA on a policy basis but, under the Constitution, the decision to enact such nationally-protective legislation plainly has been assigned to Congress, and PASPA was a proper exercise of that power. Nothing in the words nor implicit in the structure of the Constitution would, sensibly, preclude the federal government from prohibiting any entity, including states (which surrendered aspects of sovereign authority over certain commerce upon choosing to join the national government) from authorizing conduct in interstate or foreign commerce plainly adverse to federal policy. To rule otherwise brings from the grave a structural weakness long thought buried when the inefficient Articles of Confederation were replaced by the present U.S. Constitution.

The full article that expertly breaks down each argument can be found HERE

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

A Brief Look at Crime 12/27 – 01/02

Human Trafficking Gang Used Gambling to Launder Money

A brutal criminal organization exploited workers for years and generated $200 million. The victims were kept in inhumane conditions for at least five years. Gang members took some of the proceeds to casinos to cover their tracks. A criminal group have used casinos to launder millions of ill-gotten funds obtained through the exploitation of Central American laborers who were forced to work in inhumane conditions across farms in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, and elsewhere court documents have revealed.

According to the documents, the gang was a “modern-day slavery” operation which used the money it received from the immigrants to purchase real estate and gamble at numerous gambling establishments to launder the money. Federal prosecutors were able to levy charges against at least 24 suspects after several US agencies, including Homeland Security, the FBI, the US Department of Labor and other authorities assisted in what was dubbed “Operation Blooming Onion.”

Casino Spree With GoFundMe Money Sees Man Enter Guilty Plea To Feds

A New Jersey man has admitted his part in a bogus GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $400,000, ostensibly to help a kind-hearted homeless veteran. But the money was frittered away on luxury items and casino trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City by Mark D’Amico and his then-girlfriend, Katelyn McClure. D’Amico, 42, McClure, and homeless man Johnny Bobbitt Jr. are accused of inventing a feel-good story that was featured on the crowdfunding platform back in 2017. D’Amico and McClure claimed Bobbitt had given McClure his only $20 to help her when her car ran out of gas. But text messages later uncovered by police show they met Bobbitt for the first time outside the Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia and the Good Samaritan story was a hoax.

Aussie Woman Addicted to Gambling App That Doesn’t Pay Out Real Money Steals $678K 

To fuel her gambling addiction, the lady stole approximately $678,788 from her employer. The lady was so addicted to the app that she left it on auto while she slept. In Australia, gambling represents a significant public health issue. Although approximately 0.5-1% of the adult population is experiencing problem gambling, some 250,000-350,000 Australians are experiencing at-risk gambling.

Considering the ongoing pandemic, the online gambling activities in the country have spiked. In fact, a report from September this year suggested that online gambling spending in September skyrocketed. Moreover, last month, a new study funded by Gambling Research Australia revealed that the number of online gamblers doubled in the last 10 years.

Man who claimed dead parents’ pension for 33 years gambled it all away, court hears

A man who fraudulently claimed the pensions of his dead parents for 33 years has gambled away the close to €1 million he received in payments, a court has heard. Donal O’Callaghan of Churchfield Green, Cork appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court having pleaded guilty to 73 sample counts of social welfare fraud dating back over three decades. Some 68 counts relate to theft, while five refer to false documentation in support of the fraudulent claims. Defence Barrister Ray Boland, SC, told Judge Helen Boyle that his 58-year-old client suffers from a major gambling problem.

$1 billion and counting: Investigator reveals size of poker machine crime

State and federal authorities have evidence NSW’s 95,000 poker machines are being used as laundering machines for illicit cash that is “easily in the hundreds of millions” of dollars, with allegations that, nationwide, more than $1 billion from the proceeds of crime is likely being cleansed through pubs and clubs with gaming machines. The scale of Australia’s pokies crime problem has been revealed by one of the nation’s most senior gambling industry officials and comes as CCTV video from a central Sydney pokies venue shows a money-laundering syndicate operating with impunity.

The vision, obtained by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes, reveals the syndicate effectively commandeering the pokies venue to launder tens of thousands of dollars, with a large number of people apparently involved in the co-ordinated scheme. It shows two different methods: some in the group are working on linked gaming machines chasing an almost guaranteed jackpot, while another figure is feeding banknotes into two poker machines at once. In an hour, the man feeds $27,000 into the machine, then bets just $1 and claims the rest as “clean” gambling winnings.

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