Category Archives: Crime

A Brief Look at Crime  9/20 – 9/26

Problem gamblers have highest suicide rate of any addiction disorder, studies show

September is World Suicide Prevention week, and experts are raising awareness about disordered gambling, which has the highest suicide rate among all addictions with 1 in 5 problem gamblers attempting suicide. The 2017 Report on Problem Gambling Services shows that nearly one in 10 Ohioans who gamble are currently experiencing or are at risk of developing a gambling problem. Roughly one in five pathological gamblers attempts suicide, a rate higher than that for any other addictive disorder. Approximately 220,000 Ohioans engage in at-risk gambling with 30,000 engaging in problem gambling behaviors. Early detection and support are essential in getting help for problem gambling and preventing suicide. Unlike other addictions, problem gambling has no physical symptoms.

Combined with the stigma surrounding discussing finances, a gambling problem can often go undetected, resulting in devastating consequences for the gambler and their family. However, these are common warning signs to look for: Exaggerating gambling wins and downplaying losses; Asking for loans to cover gambling losses; Using money for food, rent or other necessities for gambling; Poor work performance; Restlessness or irritability when not gambling 

Chicago Gambling Ring Convicts Get Sentenced

According to the prosecution, Matthew Knight was second in the gambling ring agent hierarchy. Despite that, he got only six months of community confinement, two years of probation, a $10,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service. District Judge Virginia Kendall explained that the light sentence comes as a result of Matthew Knight’s clean history, his evident guilt, and his willingness to cooperate with the law keepers. The prosecution pointed out FBI experts’ claim that Knight’s gamblers might have generated as much as $18 million just in 2018, but the judge explained that despite his big role in the gambling ring, he was less guilty than DelGiudice and Nicholas Stella – a police officer who participated in the illegal betting activities. In comparison, DelGiudice, who pleaded guilty in February, faces up to 25 years for a gambling conspiracy and money laundering. Although he’s pleaded guilty, no sentence has been pronounced yet. Nicholas Stella was already sentenced to 15 months in prison. A few people were   also sentenced because of ties with the gambling ring, with former President Donald Trump personally pardoning Casey Urlacher, the mayor of Mettawa who was among the convicts.

1400 Arrests, $8M Seized in Illegal Gambling at Euro: Interpol 

An Interpol operation targeting illegal gambling during Euro 2020 led to 1400 arrests and the seizure of $7.9 million (6.7 million euros) in cash, the Lyon-based global crime agency reported. Thousands of raids in Asia and Europe also resulted in the confiscation of computers and mobile phones connected to almost $465 million in bets. “While most of us were watching the UEFA European Football Championship as simple fans, hundreds of specialized officers across 28 countries were targeting organized crime groups looking to earn millions from illegal gambling and related money laundering activities,” an Interpol statement read.

Hong Kong police detained more than 800 suspects, “including the alleged kingpin of a triad-controlled bookmaking syndicate,” the statement said. In what was described as one of Hong Kong’s most successful operations ever they seized $2.7 million in cash and records detailing hundreds of millions in bets. In Italy, home of the European champions at the pandemic-delayed tournament, Operation SOGA VIII inspected 280 betting shops and delivered 1.3 million euros in sanctions for illegal betting schemes. In all, Interpol’s eight SOGA operations have led to more than 19,000 arrests, cash seizures of more than $63 million and the closure of over 4000 illegal betting dens.

Domestic dispute leads to shooting at Coahoma County casino

The Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department was called to the Isle Of Capri Casino Monday evening on a report that a man had been shot by a woman. Deputies were called at 7 p.m. about a shooting in the parking lot of the casino and told one person was suffering from non-life-threatening injuries. Deputies identified the victim as Robert Howard, no address given, who was transported to Regional One in Memphis. Deputies developed Valeria Hope, 18, no address given, as a suspect, but no arrest was made. Investigation reports said the incident appears to have been a domestic dispute.

Former Accounting Coordinator for Non-Profit Organization Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling More than $321K

A resident of Pittsburgh, PA, has been sentenced in federal court to 17 months of prison followed by two years of supervised release on her conviction of bank fraud, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today. United States District Judge David S. Cercone imposed the sentence on Danielle Strother-Rush, 34, of Columbia Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15218. According to information presented to the court, Strother-Rush was an Accounting Coordinator for the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council, which is a nonprofit organization that was created to increase business opportunities for minority-owned businesses. From approximately August 2014 until August 2016, Strother-Rush embezzled $321,255.88 in various ways and spent on funds on, among other things, gambling and frivolous purchases. The primary way in which she embezzled funds was by writing checks to herself from the operating accounts and forging her supervisor’s signature on the checks. She also made unauthorized ATM withdrawals, including several at the Rivers Casino. Lastly, she accessed the payroll bank account online and made unauthorized electronic checks payable to herself.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 9/13 – 9/19

Pennsylvania State Police Report 57 Incidents of Kids Left in Cars at Casinos

The Pennsylvania State Police reported that there have been 57 incidents of children being left unattended in a vehicle in casino parking lots so far in 2021. In addition to sharing the number of incidents, the PSP tweeted a message to their 74k followers: “Don’t gamble with your child’s life. It is illegal and endangers children. It can be deadly.” PSP Communications Director Grace Griffaton said: “Children should never be left unattended in a vehicle, especially right now. It’s extremely hot outside. In ten minutes, a car’s temperature can go up 2o degrees. Children are dying because of being left in cars. If you have to leave a child, call someone to watch that child.”

Kevin O’Toole, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control, commented to PlayPennsylvania: “We’ve been working to raise awareness of this problem. The PGCB has been working with each casino in PA and are requesting a number of properties to provide greater details regarding their process and making sure proper notifications are made when they learn of unattended children. We are making sure security personnel respond as soon as possible and get to the location as quickly as possible. We’ve also talked to casinos about reviewing and enhancing their signage about children being left unattended.”

Probe into Wildwood gaming company leads to seizure of ‘multiple gambling devices’ 

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson said the Missouri Highway Patrol searched and seized “multiple gambling machines owned or operated” by Torch on June 15 at the AM-PM Food Mart after a Greene County judge signed off on a search warrant for 15 machines. A subpoena was also issued to the company, directing it to supply documents to prosecutors on July 16, but the company “failed to comply,” filing a motion to quash the subpoena and asking for a protective order, court documents said. The court battle is the latest evidence of increasing scrutiny on Torch, even as it has injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into Missouri politics and retains high-power lobbyists to kill proposals intended to crack down on unregulated games.

Honolulu Prosecutor’s office files civil lawsuit to crack down on illegal game room activity on Oahu (HI) 

The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office has filed a first of its kind civil lawsuit in an effort to crack down on illegal game room activity on Oahu. The civil nuisance abatement complaint alleges McCully property owner KC Management, LLC and its agent Wai Tung Kwok, allowed illegal gambling to operate on its premises. According to the lawsuit, alleged cashier Tom Tran is accused of multiple gambling offenses in three separate cases on the same property. It’s asking for a court order to shut down the property for a year and permanently bar Tran from entering. “We’re trying to be creative about doing something to shut these down because otherwise, if you make a gambling case, they may stop it for a couple of days, and then it springs up a block later, or in the same place right after it’s shut down,” said Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm. Alm says with the possible exception of drugs, game rooms that attract crime, weapons, and other illegal activity, draw the most complaints from residents. 

Former low-income housing executive sentenced to prison for embezzling nearly $7 million

Pierce County Housing Authority finance executive used public funds for gambling and lavish lifestyle.  A former Pierce County Housing Authority executive was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 51 months in prison for wire fraud in connection with her scheme to steal nearly $7 million, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Cova Campbell pleaded guilty in January 2021, admitting that between March 2016 and July 2019, she used a variety of schemes to divert $6.9 million in public money to her own bank accounts.  “At a time when housing resources in our community are in historically high demand, this defendant stole from the poor and vulnerable who most needed assistance,” said U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Chief Sarah Vogel.  “Her greed meant there were less resources for the elderly, the disabled, the veterans, and the children in Pierce County who count on the Housing Authority to provide safe and secure shelter.”

Man leaving Manhattan gambling den with cash in hand wounded by pair of gunmen in ambush

A man leaving an illegal gambling den in Upper Manhattan with a handful of cash was shot by a pair of gunmen — but ultimately managed to escape with his life, police said Sunday. The 25-year-old victim was leaving the underground gambling hotspot on Amsterdam Ave. near W 176th St. in Washington Heights with a “wad of cash in his hand” when two hooded gunmen hopped out a black Chevy Tahoe about 7 a.m. Friday, a police source said. Surveillance video released by cops shows the victim and a friend running uptown on Amsterdam Ave. as one of the gunmen chases them, firing multiple rounds. The other gunman appears to chicken out, suddenly spinning around and running back to the SUV. The victim, who cops say lives in Mississippi, was struck in his left shoulder and left thigh but managed to get away from the shooter. He was taken to Harlem Hospital, where he was is in stable condition, police said

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

A Brief Look at Crime 9/06 – 9/12

Father and Sons Are Charged in $21 Million Lottery Fraud

No statistical model could explain it, and when a Massachusetts man and his two sons cashed in more than 13,000 winning lottery tickets worth nearly $21 million over eight years, federal prosecutors and lottery officials said it was anything but luck. “A statistician will say that there’s some astronomical odd,” Michael R. Sweeney, the executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery, said in an interview. “But the reality is, it’s zero.”

In a 19-page indictment that was unsealed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Ali Jaafar and his sons Mohamed Jaafar and Yousef Jaafar were collectively charged with more than a dozen counts of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion for taking part in what the authorities say was a ticket-cashing scheme. A vast majority of the tickets were the scratch-off type that are typically sold at convenience stores, prosecutors said.

From 2011 to 2019, according to the indictment, the Jaafars claimed the prizes on behalf of the actual winners, who potentially avoided having their winnings garnished for unpaid taxes or child support, a requirement for any prize over $600 in Massachusetts. The Jaafars then falsely reported six- and seven-figure gambling losses on their tax returns, allowing them to drastically reduce the taxes they paid on the winnings, prosecutors said.

Father charged after leaving children in car at casino 

A Westmoreland County father is facing charges after leaving his two children under the age of 3 alone in the car while he went to the casino. State police said the two children, ages 1 and 3, were left alone in a running vehicle last Saturday afternoon at Live! Casino Pittsburgh for nearly half an hour. Police said their dad, 28-year-old Zachary Bohinski went inside to place a takeout order for nachos at Guy Fieri’s restaurant. Instead of returning to the car, he decided to pass the time waiting for his order to be completed inside. “Instead of returning to the vehicle he goes into the casino and starts to play slot machines,” Pennsylvania State Trooper Steve Limani said. The children were left in the car for 28 minutes.

Woodland Man Suspected Of Kidnapping Woman Off Cache Creek Casino Property 

Deputies say a Yolo County kidnapping suspect was also apparently involved in a hit-and-run earlier in the day. The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office says, early Monday afternoon, a woman reported that a man had offered to give her a ride to the Cache Creek Casino mini-mart. She got in his truck, but the man instead started driving off casino property. She asked to leave the truck several times, deputies say. Eventually, the man ended up at a dead-end on County Road 78A. After he parked, the woman says she noticed that the man had a gun. Right at that moment, however, some ranchers showed up to work – giving the woman the distraction to get out of the truck. She was to wave down the ranchers, who soon took her back to the casino to get help where she then called authorities. Deputies later tracked the suspect’s truck to the 19000 block of County Road 78A. A stolen 9mm pistol was also found inside the truck, deputies say.

US Sports Betting Fraud Attempts Rise Significantly During Pandemic 

Sports betting fraud attempts skyrocketed in the second quarter of 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic peaked. A new TransUnion report released Wednesday found gaming to be the most susceptible industry to fraud attempts. The US digital fraud attempt rate in gaming jumped 261.9% from the second quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of 2021. Travel and leisure was second with a 136.6% jump. Dissecting those figures, sports betting fraud attempts jumped 114% in the same time frame, according to Melissa Gaddis, senior director of customer success at TransUnion. The report is based on “billions of transactions” from TruValidate, a system used for identity proofing, authentication and fraud analytics.

“[We’re] seeing increases in transaction volumes and people who perpetrate fraud go where the money is,” Gaddis told LSR. US sports betting transactions are increasing rapidly. Overall, fraud attempts increased 16.5% globally, according to the report. The general rise was in part because of transaction growth between the two quarters. The second quarter of 2020 included the most significant shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, gaming was the most significant target for fraud attempts, rising 393%. Travel was second at 155.9%.

Nonprofit Head Accused of Stealing Money Meant to Feed Kids

A director of a nonprofit for youth in one of Mississippi poorest counties has been arrested for allegedly stealing state funds meant to feed needy children. Carol Jackson, the executive director and founder of Sunflower County’s On Track Community Development Corporation was indicted earlier this month on fraud charges, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White said Monday. Jackson is accused of submitting fraudulent documents and stealing more than $40,000 in Mississippi Department of Education money. She allegedly used state funds to write herself more than $20,000 in checks, withdrew thousands of dollars from an ATM at a local casino and spent nearly $2,000 on personal travel. “We will hold the line when someone steals any taxpayer funds, but we are even more motivated when someone steals money intended for children,” White said in a statement.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 8/23 – 9/05

A Bookie, Miami Heat Championship Ring, Gold Bars And The Feds

Clarence “Gary” Austin, a Miami, Florida sports bettor and bookie of offshore wagering Tradewinds, has 99 problems and the federal government is definitely one of them. Earlier this month, documents filed by the United States of America with a district court in Texas reveal the feds seized millions of dollars worth of currency and property from Austin’s Plantation, Florida, home. The seizure came just a few months after the feds filed a complaint with the court claiming Austin is involved in four federal crimes: transmission of wagering information, running an illegal gambling business, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit these offenses. In short, the federal government is claiming Austin was involved in a ton of shady dealings. As such, they raided his home and seized a laundry list of rich-guy possessions including a Miami Heat championship ring.

Sharks’ Kane accused of Game-Fixing From Wife 

San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane denied allegations his wife made on social media that he bet on NHL games, including against his own team. Kane responded Sunday morning to allegations made the previous day from the Instagram account of his wife, Anna. The NHL said Saturday night that it was made aware of the social media posts from Anna Kane and plans to conduct a full investigation. Anna Kane wrote: “How does the NHL let a compulsive gambling addict still play when he’s obviously throwing games to win money? Hmm maybe someone needs to address this.”

She added: “Can someone ask (Commissioner) Gary Bettman how they let a player gamble on his own games? Bet and win with bookies on his own games?” In a separate post, Anna Kane accused her husband of spending lavishly partying in Europe while asking her to sell her wedding ring to survive and wrote about not being able to afford baby formula for their child. Kane’s gambling history and finances have been public knowledge for some time. A Las Vegas Strip casino sued Kane in 2019, alleging he failed to repay a $500,000 gambling debt racked up during a playoff series against the Golden Knights.

Man dies in fight at casino (NV)

A man died after he was knocked out in an early-morning fight Friday at a Laughlin casino. The man, who has not been identified, was knocked unconscious during “a large fight with multiple suspects” on the main casino floor at the Aquarius Casino Resort, said Officer Misael Parra of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s office of public information.

Parra said Metro received a call to respond to the casino for a fight in progress at about 1:20 a.m. Friday. When officers from Metro’s Laughlin substation arrived, they found the man unresponsive on the floor. The man was taken by ambulance from the property on Laughlin’s Casino Drive to Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Parra said the initial report did not indicate how many “multiple” participants were. Police later said the man was in a group of people that apparently got into an argument with another group. The argument escalated into a physical fight involving the victim and at least two other men. The two other men were gone by the time police arrived.

Woman sentenced in fatal shooting at south Wichita gambling operation 

A 47-year-old Haysville woman who fatally shot an erstwhile boyfriend in 2019 at the illegal gambling space she operated in south Wichita was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 10 years in prison, officials said. Stacey Jeanie Peters pleaded guilty in June to second-degree murder and commercial gambling in the case that involved the death of 41-year-old Robert Duvaul, who was found dead inside a building in the 3000 block of South Hillside.

When officers arrived at the building, she told them that she had been arguing with Duvaul, who had a gun, that he was threatening to damage her property and that he was threatening to kill her. She told police she shot him. Surveillance video from the seen showed Duvaul with his hands up before staggering backwards and collapsing, the news release said. Witnesses said Peters was known to carry a pistol on her hip when she worked at the business.

Two women found dead at Palms Casino Resort off Las Vegas Strip in suspected murder-suicide

TWO women were found dead inside a hotel room in Las Vegas in a suspected murder-suicide, according to reports. They were found by employees at the Palms Casino Resort around 3pm on Tuesday. The guests, said to be in their 30s, reportedly hadn’t checked out of the hotel prompting security guards to visit the room, Las Vegas Sun reports. They couldn’t get into the room at first so employees forced down the door and the bodies were found on the bed. Cops believe the women died from gunshot wounds and that they died within 12 hours of being discovered. It’s suspected they may have been “romantically involved” but no further details have been provided, according to the Las Vegas Police Department. Their identities have not been revealed but it’s thought that they were locals to the city. Las Vegas  Metropolitan Police Homicide Lt Ray Spencer said: “We know that at least one of them was alive as early as 5am.” Cops are unsure if they died at the same time. Lt. Spencer said that there were no reports of gunshots from anyone nearby.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 8/16 – 8/22

Chicago police officer sentenced to 15 months behind bars for role in sports gambling case

Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Nicholas Stella to between a year and 18 months in prison, accusing him of betraying his oath as a Chicago police officer. A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a veteran Chicago police officer to 15 months in prison for his role in a large-scale, international gambling ring. Nicholas Stella, 43, is the third person to be sentenced for his role in the gambling ring once run by Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall last year gave three months of home detention to DelGiudice’s father, Eugene “Geno” DelGiudice. And last month, she gave six months of community confinement to Todd Blanken. But she also ordered Stella into Chicago’s federal lockup six months ago, after prosecutors said Stella “violently assaulted his girlfriend” last January at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont. Kendall cited that incident when she handed down Stella’s sentence Thursday, telling him “There can be no tolerance for that in our society.” The judge also said Stella’s status as a police officer is “so troubling.” Seeing an officer act as though he is above the law brings suspicion to “all of the really good officers out there who are trying to do their jobs — and they are trying so hard, with integrity and good character,” Kendall said.

Man in ‘Hollywood-Esque’ Masks Gets Prison for Casino Thefts

A Detroit-area man who wore realistic masks while robbing $125,000 from cash kiosks in casinos was sentenced Thursday to four years in federal prison. John Colletti of Harper Woods committed a “remarkably elaborate scheme” while wearing “Hollywood-esque disguises” with hats and glasses, prosecutors said in a court filing. Colletti, 56, admitted that he obtained personal information from people who had accounts with Global Payments Gaming Systems, had false IDs made overseas and withdrew money from kiosks at casinos. He was sentenced in federal court in Detroit, three months after pleading guilty to wire fraud and identity theft. “There are any number of legitimate pursuits toward which he could have directed his talents,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Particka said. “Unfortunately, (Colletti) decided that costumed capers such as those in this case were a better use of his time.” Defense attorney Stacey Studnicki asked for a two-year prison sentence, the mandatory minimum.

Feds Reportedly Seize Millions in Cash, Assets From Gambler’s Florida Home

Law enforcement agents have issued details about a raid on the home of high-profile sports gambler Clarence “Gary” Austin in Plantation, Fla. Reports state that police seized almost $4.3 million in cash, 61 gold bars, five luxury cars, and a Miami Heat championship ring. The value of the gold bars and upscale cars taken from the house was not immediately known. The cars include two Mercedes Benzes, a Lamborghini, a Porsche Cayenne, and a Land Rover Range Rover, the report said.

Austin is the owner and operator of the Costa Rica based   Tradewinds gaming site, according to the Florida report. It has been in operation since 1998. Austin and Calvin Ayre, the Canadian billionaire, were reported as among the founders of sportsbook businesses in Costa Rica, according to The Costa Rica Star. “Austin’s illegal Internet gambling enterprise has produced in excess of $34 million in illegal proceeds during its operation,” according to documents filed in federal court. [T]he /Sun-Sentinel/ quotes a federal court document that Austin set up “an intricate domestic and international money laundering organization and methods to surreptitiously conduct monetary transactions with the bookmakers and bettors located in the US in order to ultimately receive and utilize the illicit earnings.” The money was kept in “numerous domestic and offshore corporations, business entities, and trusts,” the report said.

Woman used charity Kidz Come 1st cash for online gambling 

A WOMAN has admitted defrauding a children’s charity out of cash by spending the money on online gambling. Ruksana Khan, 65, abused her position with a former Clacton-based charity, Kidz Come 1st, by siphoning off funds into her own bank account, a court heard. At a previous hearing at Colchester Magistrates’ Court, prosecutors said there were 378 payments into Khan’s personal bank account totalling more than £50,000. Magistrates were told there were cash withdrawals of more than £15,000, with the prosecution alleging charity trustee James Donovan, 55, acting as the sole signatory to the transactions. Appearing at Chelmsford Crown Court, Khan admitted three counts of fraud.

Dakota County clerk who stole $650K to feed gambling habit gets 2¼ years in prison

A judge sentenced an elected town clerk in Dakota County to two-plus years in prison for stealing more than $650,000 from Vermillion Township to feed her gambling habit. Maryann H. Stoffel, 71, of Hastings, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis to 2¼ years in prison and ordered to pay back all of the $652,674.66 that she misappropriated from December 2012 through October 2020. Stoffel pleaded guilty in March to one count of wire fraud. “This was not a one-time mistake,” the prosecution wrote in asking for Stoffel to receive a three-year term. “Stoffel made the decision on many different days over the course of eight years to steal money from the Township and to lie to her fellow Township officials. … Stoffel did not use the money to buy things that she needed, but rather to fund her yearslong gambling habit.”

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

A Brief Look at Crime 8/09 – 8/15

Baby Found in Locked Car at North Las Vegas Casino, Gambler Arrested

A baby was taken to a Nevada hospital Friday night for an exam by authorities. That’s after it was found alone in a car parked at Bighorn Casino in North Las Vegas on a hot’s summer’s evening. A man was later arrested, and police said he was gambling in the venue and appeared intoxicated. The child is believed to be younger than one year of age. The infant was in a pediatric unit earlier this weekend, /KLAS/, a local TV station, reported.

The baby’s condition was unknown as of Sunday. It is unclear if the baby suffered any injuries. The windows were partially rolled down when the baby was seen by police officers. The car was locked. Temperatures outside on Friday reached a high of 117 degrees in Las Vegas, according to AccuWeather. Las Vegas has been facing record-setting temperatures. Mitchell Anthony Hooks, 39, of Las Vegas was located in the casino at about 8:15 pm Friday. He was arrested by North Las Vegas police officers. Hooks was charged with child abuse and leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle, /KLAS/ said.

Sheriff’s deputy tracks, dismantles cockfighting operations in LA County

Tucked away off a dirt road in the middle of a remote canyon in unincorporated Chatsworth, a large cockfighting breeding ranch has been uncovered and brought down by the LA County Sheriff’s Department. The lead deputy on the case, Joel Bronson, worked the investigation for more than a year before it was finally time to remove about 400 roosters and hens from the property. The cages were hidden behind a circle of plywood, across a rickety makeshift bridge. Bronson said the ranch was one of thousands of cockfighting enterprises in the area of LA County he tracks.

“I feel good about being here. This is the payoff of a lot of work to finally take this guy’s animals away from him,” Bronson said. Bronson has been with the sheriff’s department 15 years and has become an expert in dismantling this type of crime. “A lot of times, it’s drug dealers and it’s a hobby for them. It’s a flashy, high-profile hobby that they can make a lot of money on and throw parties, and have a cockfight and do a bunch of gambling,” Bronson said.

30 people arrested after authorities break up Florida cockfighting ring

Thirty people, including a juvenile, were arrested after a months-long investigation into an illegal cockfighting ring, Florida’s Agricultural Law Enforcement office reported Tuesday. Dubbed “Operation Fowl Play,” officers broke up the ring last week in Mayo, Fla., a rural city in North Florida, as officers armed with a warrant busted in to find a crowd gathered to watch roosters fight to their death. The report said they came upon “a gathering of participants and onlookers actively engaged in the illegal blood sport of fighting or baiting of animals.” Police K9 had to chase down several suspects who fled the area on foot.

A search of the area uncovered three dead roosters and 41 live roosters that were being readied to fight. All of those arrested, who were from across Florida and Georgia, will be charged with third degree felonies for attending the fighting or baiting of animals. Others are facing additional charges for owning, possessing or selling equipment for use in an animal fight, while another is facing child neglect charges for the juvenile that was in attendance. Guns, cash and drugs were also found, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture.

New charges brought against former casino CEO

The former CEO of a west-central Wisconsin casino accused of embezzling over $72,000 from the business is now facing additional federal charges. The indictment charges Oustigoff for filing tax returns that underreported his income from 2015 to 2018 — the years he is accused of embezzling from Turtle Lake Casino. According to the indictment, the then-general manager and CEO misapplied casino funds on eight occasions between December 2015 and January 2018. Those incidents of alleged embezzlement total about $72,600 taken from the business operated by the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. If Oustigoff is convicted, each of the eight embezzlement counts carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison. Filing false income tax returns carries a smaller penalty of up to three years in prison per count.

Rivers Casino Visitor Arrested After Allegedly Leaving 7-Year-Old Alone in Car

An Illinois man was arrested Sunday after allegedly leaving a 7-year-old boy in a car parked at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. The incident comes a couple of days after a similar allegation against another person involving a baby in the much warmer Nevada climate. John Elliott, 44, of Schiller Park, Ill., was charged with endangering the life or health of a child following the Rivers Casino episode, according to the /Daily Herald/, an Illinois newspaper.

Elliott allegedly left the boy in the car at about 7:30 pm Sunday. The child climbed out of the car 20 minutes later, police said. Soon after, the boy went up to casino security guards. He told them he was alone after the adult went inside the gaming property. Local cops learned about the incident at about 8:30 p.m. That night, Illinois Gaming Board agents reportedly apprehended Elliott before he left the casino. If convicted, Elliott could be fined up to $25,000 and be sentenced to between two and five years in prison.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 8/02 – 8/08

Gambling Debt Led Brooklyn, NY Man To Allegedly Murder His Father, Reports Reveal 

Gambling debt reportedly was the motive behind a Brooklyn, N.Y. man fatally stabbing his father in the chest on July 4, according to published reports. The suspect was apprehended on Sunday in the borough’s latest deadly crime tied to gambling. Police said Sean Peterson, 24, was arrested on a murder charge over the weekend for the killing of Anthony “Capone” Berry, 45, also of Brooklyn. The early morning stabbing took place outside of Berry’s residence. The apartment building is located in the Flatbush Gardens section of the borough. The duo had been arguing near the building over the gambling debt, according to the /New York Daily News/. It appears that money was owed to Peterson. After the stabbing, EMTs transported Berry to a NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County emergency room. But doctors at the hospital declared him deceased, according to /AM NY/, a regional online news site.

Man arrested in Woodland in connection to Thunder Valley Casino shooting

A man is arrested in Woodland Friday after the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said he was involved in a shooting that injured a young woman at Thunder Valley Casino Thursday night. It was supposed to be the start of a bright, new future for 24-year-old Lajoyia Murphy. She was starting her new beauty business and was meeting a new client at Thunder Valley Casino. Her mother Krystal Gill says she and her aunt came along for support. 

According to detectives with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Murphy was coming out of a parking garage at Thunder Valley around 8 p.m. when she noticed a small, dark car was swerving in and out of lanes behind her, before pulling up beside her near Athens Avenue. “The car just pulled alongside her and just shot,” Gill said. “Shot one time and it went through the passenger door of her and hit her in the hip of her leg.” Gill says sadly this isn’t the first time their family has encountered senseless gun violence. “My daughter had just lost a cousin, Amir, from a shooting highway 50 where he was in the head,” Gill told FOX40. “It just shows the times of this world is just wicked, it’s really wicked.”

Dayton woman arrested for leaving children in hot car while gambling 

A 37-year-old Dayton woman was arrested at a casino on E. William Street for three counts of child neglect and endangerment. According to the report, a Carson City Sheriff’s Office patrol deputy was called to a child welfare check at a local hotel-casino. An off-duty Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) officer had found two small children outside of the casino’s front doors, later reporting these two children and a third were left unattended in a vehicle for approximately five hours.

The deputy arrived on-scene to be informed that the 7-year-old and 5-year-old children were found by the NHP officer sitting alone on a bench in front of the casino. Later, a third 4-year-old child was found to have been left in the vehicle who had wet hair and was visibly sweating. According to the report, the woman left her three children in the vehicle with only the sunroof and back right window cracked for ventilation. The woman estimated she was in the casino between 45 minutes to an hour.

‘We will keep busting them’: Anniston police seize 59 gaming machines after warning of raids

With help from federal and state authorities, Anniston police seized 59 gaming machines, a gun and cash from illegal gambling establishments following raids Thursday morning, the city’s police chief said. Chief Nick Bowles said he gave the establishments notice after a similar raid a few months ago but the illegal businesses did not heed his warning. As for residents who complain that the department should tackle “real crime,” Bowles said illegal gambling dens are havens for other criminal activity.

“Real crime follows these places. We’ve had assaults, robberies, a shootout and even a murder at one of them. There’s drug dealing going on, there’s illegal alcohol sales – every vice that’s available out there comes along with these gambling establishments,” he said. “So we will keep busting them — don’t open them. Don’t come to Anniston, if you don’t want to see me in your place … then don’t open a gaming establishment in Anniston, period.”

Illegal Casino Busted In East Oakland; Guns, Cash, $76,000 In Drugs Seized 

Guns, narcotics and gambling machines were seized, along with a large amount of cash after police said they busted an illegal casino in East Oakland. “For more than a year our community did exactly what we’ve asked,” Chief LeRonne Armstrong said Friday. “They partnered with OPD on an issue that has plagued this community with narcotics, human trafficking, and illegal gambling. This investigation highlights the success when the community partners with our officers.” During the bust, officers seized 18 illegal casino gaming machines. Eight firearms were also recovered, including two assault rifles, 30 high-capacity magazines and a bulletproof vest. Drugs with a street value of more than $76,000 were seized, including heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, and 60 bottles of promethazine. The officers also seized more than $21,000 in cash.

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

One of Missouri’s Illegal Gambling Machine Creators Attempts to Sue another Local Government in Efforts to Prevent Prosecution

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing saga of illegal slot machines that have popped up all over Missouri.  Torch Electronics is one of the manufacturers of these machines and they contend they are legal.  Few seem to agree and local prosecutors have slowly been working to take down the machines and bring charges.  Torch attempted to stop a Cole County case earlier this year and now it appears they are trying again in another case.  The St Louis Post Dispatch reports:

A Wildwood-based slot machine company sued a southwest Missouri county prosecutor this month in an attempt to stop an investigative subpoena into its operations.

The politically connected Torch Electronics sued Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson on July 15, asking the Greene County Circuit Court to quash an investigative subpoena directed at the company.

Torch argues its machines aren’t illegal gambling devices. Even so, the company faces felony illegal gambling charges in northern Missouri’s Linn County, and the Highway Patrol has deemed illegal machines such as Torch’s that are being placed in gas stations, restaurants and truck stops.

Torch’s lawsuit attempts to quash an investigative subpoena issued June 14 that seeks to “compel the production of a wide range of documents … including third-party contracts/agreements, financial records and technical information,” the lawsuit said.

Such suits, as well as a general inaction at the Missouri state legislative level, have once again called for support of a blanket and more statewide response to these illegal gambling machines. The Jefferson City New Tribune was the latest to call for action in their OpEd:

Illegal gambling machines have pervaded our state in recent years. Lawmakers and law enforcers need to address the problem. The Missouri Gaming Association estimates there are at least 14,000 illegal machines — almost as many as the number of legal ones in the state’s 13 casinos.

We understand the Gaming Association’s opposition to illegal gambling — all those machines at gas stations, restaurants and truck stops are taking a chunk of profits from the casinos and the Missouri Lottery. But the public should care, too. These machines aren’t regulated or taxed like ones in casinos. So there’s nothing to guard against minors or problem gamblers playing and the state isn’t getting a financial boost from the unregulated machines.

Unlike the Missouri Lottery, no proceeds from the unregulated machines are being used for education, for instance. As we recently reported, the machines are similar to slot machines: Players insert money, choose a game and wager, and are usually paid by a business’ cashier if they win.

Action from state lawmakers also is needed to clarify the laws. Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, advanced a bill this past session that would have done that. But it never advanced past the Senate Floor. We urge lawmakers to make addressing the problem a priority during the next session.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 7/26 – 8/01

Former Owner of Florida Produce Business Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

A Florida man pleaded guilty today to tax evasion in federal district court in Fort Lauderdale. According to court documents, Alejandro Gomez, of Broward County, operated Fleischmann’s Produce, a company that imported fresh herbs for wholesale distribution. Gomez spent approximately $896,951 in 2014 and $1,051,213 in 2015 gambling at a Broward County casino. In March 2015, Gomez filed a false 2014 corporate tax return for Fleischmann’s with the IRS that overstated total business expenditures by falsely reporting the $896,951 in gambling expenditures as cost of goods sold. The next year, Gomez caused a false 2015 corporate tax return to be filed that again falsely characterized his gambling expenditures as cost of goods sold. Because the false items reported on Fleishmann’s 2014 and 2015 corporate returns artificially reduced the income that Gomez received from Fleischmann’s, Gomez also substantially underreported his personal income for both years. In total, Gomez caused a tax loss to the IRS of over $545,000.

Man says intruders beat him, stole his casino winnings a few hours later

Lawton police are investigating a report that a man’s $5,000 casino winnings were stolen by masked men who broke into his home, knocked him out and took the money. Police said the man told them he won about $5,000 cash at Comanche Nation Casino and said he called a friend that night to tell her about his luck. Around 3 a.m. the next morning, the man said he was alone and asleep in his home when he was awakened by two intruders in facial coverings kicking in the front door. He claimed one of the intruders had a gun, and he was beaten unconscious. When he came to, the man said his $5,000 in cash and his cell phone were gone, and he suspected the friend he called was involved. The victim’s mother took him to the hospital, where he said he was in intensive care for three days. He was treated for skull fractures, an orbital socket fracture, a nose fracture and bleeding in the brain.

7 Men Charged in Dog Fighting Operation Have Pleaded Guilty

ll seven men charged after dozens of dogs were rescued in 2018 from a rural Georgia dog fighting operation have pleaded guilty to related charges, federal prosecutors said. “Animal fighting is cruel and barbaric, and has no place in our society,” Acting U.S. Attorney David Estes said in a news release. Georgia State Patrol troopers and game wardens from the state Department of Natural Resources did traffic stops after getting reports of a dogfighting operation in March 2018. In one vehicle, they discovered a pit bull covered in blood that appeared to have been injured while fighting, according to court filings. The driver admitted to having just been to a dog fight. Investigators seized 63 dogs, who were turned over to an animal rescue operation.

Dog fights are typically staged for entertainment or gambling, prosecutors said at the time of the raid. “Fights usually end when one dog withdraws, when a handler ‘picks up’ his dog and forfeits the match, or when one or both dogs die,” prosecutors wrote in their complaint seeking a warrant to seize the dogs.

Bakery manager embezzled £95,000 to fund gambling addiction 

A trusted bakery manager embezzled £95,000 in five months to fund her online gambling addiction. Nicola Smith, or Thomson, began working at Kindness Bakers on Main Street, New Deer, in 2007, and worked her way up to store manager where she was trusted with the day-to-day book-keeping. But in 2017 she began taking advantage of her position and used the bakery’s PayPoint terminal, which lets customers purchase vouchers for phone and utility top-ups,  to obtain pre-paid vouchers without running them through the till. Over the course of five months, the 46-year-old embezzled £95,000 of pre-paid vouchers, which she redeemed on gambling website Jackpotjoy. When confronted by the director, Thomson “apologised and said she had become addicted to online gambling”. 

Ex-Oakland Hills Country Club member accused of stealing $700K from caddy fund

The Detroit News brings us a real tear-jerker today about a former member of The Oakland Hills Country Club who “regularly sipped martinis at the club bar and ordered up bottles of pricey wine,” then allegedly stole nearly $700,000 from a club organization that pays for caddies to go to college. Craig A. Maass, who ran his father’s pump distributing and servicing company until it was sold in 2017, tells The News he was so “out of control” doesn’t even recall what he spent the money on. Authorities say it likely went to “supporting a lifestyle he could no longer afford, including gambling at a Detroit casino and trips to Vegas.” The Bloomfield Hills club pressed charges, despite the 62-year-old’s hope that, given his nearly lifelong affiliation, he could just pay back what he owed. A trial on six counts of embezzlement is scheduled to start Thursday, and Maass faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 7/19 – 7/25

Missouri Highway Patrol seizes more gaming machines from Springfield convenience store

A couple was arrested after they left a 3-year-old child alone in a hotel room while they gambled in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, authorities said. Tom Tan Nguyen, 53, and Tin Thi Ngoc Nguyen, 37, were arrested Tuesday by Seminole Police on charges of child neglect without great bodily harm, Broward County jail records showed. Tom Tan Nguyen appeared in Broward bond court Wednesday, where prosecutors alleged that he and Tin Thi Ngoc Nguyen left the child in the room for several hours while they gambled downstairs. The child was able to get out of the room and became locked out of the room, prosecutors said. The couple, who were visiting from Tampa, were given pre-trial release but ordered not to have contact with the child.

Lucky Star: Six Oklahoma casinos hit by ransomware 

Lucky Star officials say they have contacted the FBI to investigate as multiple Oklahoma casinos get hit with a cyber-crime attack. The lights are down at the Lucky Star Casino in Concho, one of six tribal casinos in western Oklahoma to be hacked. “The money is there and that’s why they are a prime target,” said Teresa Rule, cyber crime expert. Lucky Star Casino officials issued a statement Monday, saying in part… “Lucky Star Casino has unfortunately joined the growing list of government agencies, businesses, and other casinos to be hit by a  ransomware attack.” But casino officials have not said what the hackers are demanding. Experts say since almost all the games in casinos are now computerized in some way or another, hackers use ransomware holds the casino main frame hostage. “They are big bullies – ‘if you will give me this much money, then I’ll give you control of your systems back,’” said Rule.”  Rule says sometimes casinos pay the ransom to get back to business, but she says that just feeds the system.

Kansas Man Gets Prison Sentence in Fraud Case Involving Small Credit Union

A former University of Kansas Medical Center administrator was sentenced to two years in federal prison last week for stealing more than $556,000 from an account he controlled at the $31 million KUMC Credit Union. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel D. Crabtree in Kansas City also ordered Michael Ahlers to pay restitution of $680,681 and serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. Ahlers pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of federal tax evasion in February. In new court documents, Ahlers attorney said his client was an alcoholic with a gambling addiction, who also owned a financially troubled liquor store while working as an administrative officer at KUMC’s Occupational Therapy Education Department. Prosecutors said Ahlers spent most of the funds on gambling, vacation trips, bars and restaurants.

Omaha Sports Academy founder accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars

Authorities are investigating a founder of the Omaha Sports Academy youth basketball program in connection with the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for the business. Officials are collecting records and looking into the financial activity of Bob Franzese, said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. Franzese, 48, who was co-owner and general manager of OSA, was removed from the program in April. Kleine said investigators suspect Franzese was using the money for gambling. Willie Douglas, co-owner of Fast Break Sports LLC, told Omaha police on June 22 that the alleged embezzlement occurred from December 2016 to this April. Fast Break Sports LLC is the limited liability company associated with OSA and Predator Basketball League, according to Nebraska secretary of state records. Franzese, who had as much as a 25% ownership stake in OSA, was removed as general manager in April. The alleged theft was discovered as part of a recent audit.

Anti-cockfighting group starts ad campaign to pressure law enforcement 

Two animal protection groups that have gone after cockfighting for the last two years are using advertising to try to raise public pressure to force law enforcement to act. Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) and the Humane Farming Association (HFA) are partnering with Kentuckians to expose illegal cockfighting operations by purchasing ads in major newspapers in the state. Titled, “COCKFIGHTING IS DESTROYING KENTUCKY COMMUNITIES”, the hard-hitting ads detail a variety of issues the groups say are tied to cockfighting, “such as animal cruelty, drug dealing, illegal firearms, organized crime and rampant illegal gambling.”

The ad also points out alleged protection cockfighting pits have received from the Kentucky State Police, which the groups have notified several times of cockfights with no action taken. In addition, the group has pointed out alleged local law enforcement involvement, such as two Clay County deputies who were caught on video at one cockfight and a Laurel County Sheriff’s employee also has made social media posts suggesting involvement in cockfighting, the groups said.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 7/12 – 7/18

DraftKings Slumps as Hindenburg Research Alleges SBTech Ties to Illegal Gambling, Organized Crime

Shares of DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG) are sliding Tuesday after noted short-selling activist Hindenburg Research published a lengthy report. The report alleges the gaming company’s SBTech unit operates in jurisdictions where sports betting is illegal and may have connections to money laundering and organized crime. Founded by Shalom Meckenzie, one of the richest men in Israel, SBTech was part of a 2020 three-way reverse merger involving DraftKings and special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp. That transaction paved the way for DraftKings to become a publicly traded entity.

At that time, SBTech, which is based in Bulgaria, contributed a quarter of the combined company’s revenue and “was the only positive contributor to operating income, providing both financial stability and technology to the deal,” according to Hindenburg. However, the research firm, which took a short position in the gaming stock, adds there’s a dark side to those benefits. “Unbeknownst to investors, DraftKings’ merger with SBTech also brings exposure to extensive dealings in black-market gaming, money laundering and organized crime,” said the research firm. “We estimate that roughly 50 percent of SBTech’s revenue continues to come from markets where gambling is banned, based on an analysis of DraftKings’ SEC filings, conversations with former employees, and supporting documents.”

Philly Man Surrenders in Fatal Atlantic City Casino Stabbing

A Philadelphia man wanted in the deadly stabbing of his girlfriend at an Atlantic City casino last week has turned himself in, authorities announced Tuesday. Frankie Lane, 59, faces murder and weapons charges stemming from the death of Sharon Whaley, 57, of Philadelphia. Her body was found Friday night inside a room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. Whaley had suffered multiple stab wounds, prosecutors said, but a cause of death has not been determined.

Pennsylvania Gaming Commission imposes a total fine of $ 284,000 

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board After the regulator identified a series of failures, it issued a series of penalties and two non-monetary punitive measures. A total fine of $ 284,000 Void Gaming, Mountain View Thoroughbred Racing Association, Valley Forge Convention Center Partner* And Sugar shack game, In addition to Snowshoe Travel Plaza And Pit Stop Travel Plaza.

Boyd Gaming, who received the largest fine of $ 150,000, was sanctioned by the PGCB for failing to notify regulators of all relevant facts about why he relinquished his principal’s license in 2020 and determined board suitability. Hindered. Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing was fined $ 70,000 after an individual on the regulatory self-exclusion list entered the facility’s game floor.Individuals were then offered alcoholic beverages that led to addiction and subsequent damage to the vehicle.

Former Sheriff Lt. Sent to Prison for Moonlighting as Illegal Gambling Kingpin

Former Florence County Sheriff Lt. Mark Edward Fuleihan will serve a year and a day in a federal prison after pleading guilty to illegally running a gambling business. Fuleihan and one other former deputy received a plea deal back in April after admitting to unlawfully and knowingly managing and owning an illegal gambling business. Between 2013 and 2017, Fuleihan accepted monetary bribes from “associates” in the gambling business in exchange for tipping them off about potential raids and investigations. At least one associate said Fuleihan also sold previously seized gambling machines back to members of the gambling ring. Part of his plea deal requires Fuleihan to pay every victim who might have been harmed by his crimes. Charges of intimidating witnesses and jurors, and tampering with a witness, victim or informant were dropped as part of the deal.

onday. So how many more could follow? Sgt. Mike McClure says the goal of the raids is to help educate people on the Missouri statutes of such machines. ”Those machines are illegal, and our job is to bring people into compliance, and in this case not necessarily enforcement, but to educate people on the illegality of these machines,” said Sgt. McClure.

Couple Left 3-Year-Old Alone in Hotel Room to Gamble at Hard Rock Casino

A couple was arrested after they left a 3-year-old child alone in a hotel room while they gambled in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, authorities said. Tom Tan Nguyen, 53, and Tin Thi Ngoc Nguyen, 37, were arrested Tuesday by Seminole Police on charges of child neglect without great bodily harm, Broward County jail records showed. Tom Tan Nguyen appeared in Broward bond court Wednesday, where prosecutors alleged that he and Tin Thi Ngoc Nguyen left the child in the room for several hours while they gambled downstairs. The child was able to get out of the room and became locked out of the room, prosecutors said. The couple, who were visiting from Tampa, were given pre-trial release but ordered not to have contact with the child.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 7/05 – 7/11

Companies accused of illegal gambling donate $350K to PACs tied to Missouri lobbyist 

A pair of companies suing the state to block a crackdown on unregulated slot machines combined this week to drop $350,000 into six political action committees tied to a controversial lobbyist. According to disclosures filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission this week, Torch Electronics and Warrenton Oil made a series of donations to MO Majority PAC, Missouri Growth PAC, Missouri C PAC, Missouri Senior PAC, Missouri AG PAC and Conservative Leaders of Missouri.

Each PAC has ties to Steve Tilley, a lobbyist and former state lawmaker who is a fundraiser and close adviser to Gov. Mike Parson. Torch cut eight checks, each for $33,333. All were reported this week. Warrenton Oil cut seven checks, each for $13,000. Tilley’s lobbying firm represents Torch, which owns games that operate like slot machines in locations around the state.

The Missouri Gaming Commission has deemed them gambling devices, which are prohibited outside of licensed casinos, and the state highway patrol considers them illegal. Several local prosecutors are also pursuing criminal charges against the companies that own and house the machines.

Poker Player Dennis Blieden Sentenced to 6.5 Years for Stealing $22 Million

Poker player Dennis Blieden, 31, was sentenced to 79 months in prison on Wednesday for embezzling $22 million from a digital marketing and talent agency that looked after social media influencers. In February 2018, the Cincinnati native won the World Poker Tour’s LA Poker Classic for $1 million. But those winnings were just a drop in the ocean compared with the money he had already stolen from his employer, Hollywood-based StyleHaul Inc. Blieden was the VP of accounting and finance for StyleHaul from October 2019 and had control of its bank accounts. According to an internal SyleHaul memo filed by prosecutors, in 2017 alone he embezzled $15 million.

He did this by wiring cash to his personal account, while creating fake accounting records and bogus Western Union letters so it would appear money was going to clients. Prosecutors said this allowed him to live out a fantasy elite-poker lifestyle, entering the biggest tournaments, playing in the biggest cash games, and rubbing shoulders with players he’d previously only idolized on TV. And he curried favor with his new friends by backing them in tournaments. He issued more than $1 million in checks to other players, according to court filings.

Donor to Nebraska anti-gambling campaign will pay record-breaking late filing fee

An Ohio-based group that poured more than $2.3 million into fighting Nebraska’s casino gambling measures last fall will pay a record-breaking fee for missing a campaign finance report deadline. But the fee would have been 10 times larger if not for action by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission last week. Commission members voted 6-3 at their June 4 meeting to grant a request for relief from Collective Prosperity. They reduced the fee to $23,130, down from the original $231,300 that was determined by a formula in state law. The reduced amount is still the largest fee ever imposed for filing a single campaign finance report late, according to Frank Daley, the commission’s executive director.

Former Employee Sentenced for Stealing Money from Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas

A federal judge sentenced 50-year-old Eduardo Riojas Villarreal of San Antonio to 21 months in federal prison yesterday for stealing money from the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas (Kickapoo). In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Alia Moses ordered Villarreal to pay $167,109.41 in restitution to the Kickapoo and be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term. On September 9, 2019, Villarreal pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and theft from Indian organizations.  According to court documents, Villarreal served as an accounts payable manager for the Kickapoo for approximately four years beginning in April 2017.  During that time, Villarreal wrote fraudulent checks payable to his wife from the Kickapoo general operating account, which is funded primarily by revenue from the Lucky Eagle Casino. He deposited those checks into his own personal bank account.  Villarreal admitted there was no legitimate basis for issuing these checks and that his wife knew nothing about his scheme.

Betting firms won £1.3m in stolen money from gambling addict

Betting firms won £1.3m in stolen money from a gambling addict without establishing where the funds came from, it has emerged, reigniting concern about whether firms do sufficient due diligence on punters who lose large sums. Andy May, 44, was sentenced at Norwich crown court on Monday to four years for fraud after admitting siphoning funds from the clothing company where he was a senior manager earning more than £50,000 a year. According to betting records seen by the Guardian, May placed thousands of bets, some with stakes of more than £50,000, with companies including Betfair, Betway, and BoyleSports.

The companies gave him incentives such as free bets and tickets to race meets, football and rugby matches, details obtained via a subject access request show. But they did little to check he could afford his habit, or find out where the money came from, until he had racked up huge losses. May funded his gambling by stealing more than £1.3m from the outdoor clothing company Sealskinz, the court heard, spending almost all of it with online gambling firms.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 6/28 – 7/04

California police arrested two parents who went to a casino hours after their disabled kid starved to death

Two parents from Vancouver, Washington, were arrested Friday in California on suspicion of second-degree murder and homicide by abuse in the death of their adopted disabled son Karreon Franks. The Oregonian reported that the parents — Jesse Franks and Felicia Adams-Franks — allegedly hit the casino just hours after Karreon died last November. Police found Karreon and his two younger brothers, who were also adopted, were severely neglected and malnourished by the adoptive parents, the Oregonian reported.

Adams-Franks on November 27 brought Karreon to a Washington hospital, where he died 14 minutes after admission. At the time, the cause of death was identified as pneumonia, according to the Oregonian, but funeral home staff members later said they had “concerns with his appearance,” prompting the police to investigate. In April of this year, a medical examiner said Karreon, who was 15, died of starvation. According to court records obtained by the Oregonian, the parents neglected their three kids for years. They restricted access to food and abused them, the outlet reported. 

Just hours after Karreon died in November, the parents went to a casino. According to police records obtained by the Oregonian, the two lost about $280,000 over the course of their lifetime gambling.

Women drugged 3 men at Seminole Hard Rock, stole cash and jewelry 

A night out at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino turned into a nightmare for a group of men after, one of them said, several women drugged three of them and took off with thousands of dollars in cash and valuables. The Miami man, who asked not to be identified or have his voice recognized, said he, his two cousins and other friends attended the Nicky Jam concert at the Hollywood hot spot, Saturday night. Hours later, the man said, they woke up without their wallets or their Rolex watches. “I just feel empty. I feel lost for words,” he said. The victim said they were approached by the women at a club inside the venue. Three of the men paired up with their new friends. “We were just having a good time,” said the man. But before they knew it, he said, the men woke up woozy and alone, without the women they met the night before and without their fancy jewels. “My cousin was found in the hallway naked. He was unresponsive, and they sent him to a nearby hospital,” said the man. In addition to the Rolex watches, the man said, the women stole a Cuban link chain worth $15,0000, plus $15,000 in cash.

CEO apologizes for ‘opening night exuberance’ after Mohegan Sun agrees to pay fine for violating COVID protocols

Mohegan Gaming CEO Ray Pineault apologized to Nevada gaming regulators Wednesday and accepted “full responsibility” after the company’s casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas was hit with a five-count complaint for violating state-mandated COVID-19 capacity guidelines during the casino’s March 25 opening night festivities. In a stipulated settlement filed with the Nevada Gaming Commission last month, Connecticut-based Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment agreed to pay a $60,000 fine. “People got a little exuberant and were caught up in the celebration,” Pineault said after a brief hearing in front of the Gaming Control Board in Las Vegas.

Retired nun to plead guilty to embezzling $835,000 from Los Angeles school for gambling habit

A retired Los Angeles nun will plead guilty to embezzling from the elementary school where she worked in order to cover her gambling habits and other personal expenses, officials said this week. Mary Margaret Kreuper, 79, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering on Tuesday and has agreed to a plea deal, according to a release from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California. Kreuper, who had taken a vow of poverty as a nun, worked as a principal at St. James Catholic School in Torrance for 28 years and allegedly embezzled the funds for 10 years until her retirement in 2018.

British Teenager Killed Two Sisters in Satanic Pact to Win Lottery, Court Hears

Two sisters stabbed to death by a stranger in a park in Northwest London were sacrificed as part of a satanic bargain to win the lottery, prosecutors said Wednesday. Danyal Hussein, 19, is on trial at the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, for the murder of Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46. The sisters’ bodies were found intertwined in a hedgerow in Fryent Country Park on June 7 last year. Each had been stabbed multiple times in a seemingly frenzied attack.

The court heard that investigators searching Hussein’s mother’s house, where he lived, found a handwritten note that appeared to be a pact with a demon. The note indicated the suspect agreed to sacrifice women for financial gain. Folded inside the note were three lottery tickets that the suspect had purchased shortly after the killing. Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow QC said Hussein appeared to believe the diabolical pact would protect him from being suspected of any crime he had committed.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/21 – 06/27

Florida woman’s club treasurer accused of stealing $160,000 in donations to gamble in casinos

The GFWC Woman’s Club of Clearwater treasurer is accused of stealing thousands of dollars over a period of two years, according to Investigators. Sharon Lynn Brindamour, 59, allegedly used $160,000 in charitable donations to gamble in casinos officals said. “She went to the Hard Rock in Tampa, she went to the Hard Rock in Fort Lauderdale, she went to Harras in Biloxi, Mississippi, she spent it on her own personal car insurance,” Pinellas County Sheriff’s Corporal Travis Sibley said. The club first contacted authorities when management changed and the numbers weren’t adding up, Sibley said. GFWC Woman’s Club of Clearwater helps local charities and nonprofit groups like the Clearwater Free Clinic. “Our mission is to help improve the health of the community as a whole,” Clinic’s Development Director Meredith Reagin said “By helping people that don’t have the means to access care themselves.”

DraftKings Subpoenaed by US Authorities Investigating New York Lobbyist’s Circle 

A lobbyist in New York with ties to the gaming industry is under scrutiny by federal regulators. The office of the US attorney in the *Southern District of New York*, through its public corruption unit, is reportedly investigating *Patrick Jenkins*, according to the New York Times (NYT), but hasn’t provided any specific details regarding the motive behind the investigation. Jenkins, a former aide to current New York, Assembly Speaker *Carl E. Heastie*, is said to have links with *DraftKings*, *FanDuel*, the *NBA*, *MLB*, *The Stars Group*, and others, and at least two of his gaming clients have been subpoenaed as part of the investigation.

According to public records, Jenkins’ firm was paid over *$3.22 million in compensation in 2019, a substantial increase from *the $37,500* it had received in *2014*. Heastie became the Assembly Speaker in 2015, and, in 2016, his campaign was paying Jenkins $4,000 a month. Some have drawn ties between the appointment and the compensation.

Casino Miami Melee Follows Outside Shooting, Two Victims Hospitalized

Miami cops continue to investigate a shooting spree near Casino Jai-Alai Miami. Three people were wounded Thursday evening outside of the Florida gaming property, and the casino was evacuated by police. Officers had their firearms drawn as they entered the casino, according to /WSVN/, a local TV station. “Everybody out, now,” an officer ordered players and visitors at the casino, the report adds. Moments after the shooting, several people outside of the casino ran inside of the gaming property for protection from the gunfire. Some hid in the manager’s office. Outside, shots had been fired by occupants of two cars driving near the casino. The driver of a back sedan appeared to be chasing the second car, a white sedan, /WSVN/ said. Miami-Dade Police Lt. Carlos Rosario said one of the suspects was “hanging out of the black sedan just shooting,” the report said. The occupants of a third car were apparently caught in the crossfire. Two of the wounded individuals were treated at a local hospital, /WSVN/ said. A third person was grazed by a bullet, the report adds.

Lanarkshire finance officer admits embezzling quarter of a million pounds

A shamed finance officer stole more than £240,000 to fund his gambling habit. John Reid, overpaid companies linked to First People Solutions Ltd. where he worked between March 2014 and July 2017. He then got his hands on the cash by asking the firms to send the surplus back into his own bank account. Glasgow Sheriff Court heard Reid carried out 155 transactions and pocketed a total of £244,950. The 39-year-old confessed to his manager when caught and stated he had a “gambling addiction.” Reid, of East Kilbride, pled guilty to embezzlement on Friday.

Feds recommend prison time for elderly Detroit-area woman who stole $440,000 from Social Security

The government is recommending a prison term for a Detroit woman who stole more than $440,000 over 30 years by cashing Social Security checks issued to her late grandmother. It’s the largest case of Social Security theft in eastern Michigan in more than five years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Andrea Billingsley-Jamison, 63, pleaded guilty in March 2020 to stealing government money, but her sentence has been delayed because of the coronavirus. She’s due in federal court on July 21. Her grandmother died in 1987, but the government apparently wasn’t aware and kept sending Social Security checks. Billingsley-Jamison’s attorney acknowledged that the government’s loss was “substantial” but said prison isn’t necessary for the first-time offender. Billingsley-Jamison used the money to support her parents, her daughter and a gambling addiction, lawyer Nancy McGunn said in a May 28 court filing.

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A Brief Look at Crime 06/07 – 06/13

Trainer Bob Baffert suspended from Belmont after Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) temporarily suspended Bob Baffert, the trainer for Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, in the aftermath of the horse failing a post-race drug test. NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke announced the suspension in a statement on Monday, citing Medina Spirit’s positive post-Kentucky Derby drug test and previous drug violations discovered among Baffert’s horses. During the time of the suspension Baffert will be forbidden from running any horses or occupying stall space at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and the Aqueduct Racetrack, effectively barring Medina Spirit from entering the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, which will take place in June. The NYRA said it expects to make a final decision regarding the length and terms of Baffert’s suspension based on the results of the ongoing investigation in Kentucky, including Medina Spirit’s post-race test.

Woman called in bomb threat at Seminole Hard Rock casino after losing playing slots

Police arrested a woman accused of calling in a bomb threat to the Seminole Hard Rock casino in Tampa after she lost hundreds while playing the slot machines. Clearwater police said Adele Belizaire of Spring Hill got mad after she lost $380 in the slot machines at the casino. When Belizaire returned to her hotel room on Clearwater Beach around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, investigators said “her self-admitted anger issues got the best of her.” That’s when she called the casino from her cell phone and said she left a bomb on the property. Authorities at the casino contacted Clearwater police, who worked to identify Belizaire and confirm where she was staying. Officers arrested her early Wednesday at her hotel and booked her into the Pinellas County Jail. She is charged with making a false report about planting a bomb, explosive or weapon of mass destruction.

Bettors File Lawsuit Against Bob Baffert & Medina Spirit Owners for Racketeering Fraud

Attorneys for four bettors filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California late Thursday against Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, his company and Zedan Racing, owners of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. The bettors are suing Baffert for racketeering and fraud, alleging that Medina Spirit’s win in the Derby constituted illegal gambling. Days after winning, the horse tested positive for Betamethasone, a steroid that reduces inflammation but is not allowed within two weeks of racing because it helps to serve as a masking agent to more serious doping drugs. If a second sample comes back as positive, Medina Spirit will be stripped of the win and its owners would be forced to return the $1.86 million winner’s prize. That’s not the case for the bettors. Anyone who bet on Medina Spirit would get to keep their money and anyone who bet on the presumptive new winner Mandaloun would not be given credit.

“Bettors…rely on participants’ representation that they comport with these laws, regulations and rules in order to properly determine which horses to be on,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants and other owners and trainers intend that bettors rely on these representations in order to encourage wagering in racing, thereby increasing the purse total.” The bettors, Michael Beychock, Justin Wunderler, Michael Meegan and Keith Mauer, all had Mandaloun in their betting combinations. The two largest bettors — Beychok and Wunderler — said they would have made in between $10,000 and $100,000 if Mandaloun won the Derby or was given the win in the betting world. The bettors ask for the money that they say is rightfully deserved plus additional damages, among other things.

Lincolnshire taxi firm manager jailed for fraud over gambling addiction

A Boston taxi firm manager who stole his company’s COVID bounce back loan has been jailed for two years and eight months (32 months). James Lloyd, 39, successfully applied for the loan on behalf of the firm and within days of the money arriving in the company bank account he transferred it into one of his personal accounts. Lloyd turned to online gambling at the start of lockdown to boost his family income, as at the time he was off work after contracting a lung disease and his wife’s hairdressing salon was closed because of the COVID restrictions. 

He was trusted by the owners of Angels Taxis based in Boston, and was a signatory on the company bank account and was given company bank accounts. But his gambling spiralled out of control and he stole over £140,000 to fund his habit. Lucy Jones, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that Lloyd was a friend of Julian and Toni Vines, who owned the company, and was trusted to manage the taxi firm. She said “It gave him the opportunity to access the company’s funds and fund his addiction to gambling. “From December 2018 up until the police became involved in August 2020 the defendant spent over £208,000 on gambling websites.

Another Win-River Casino Elderly Winner Robbed, Attacked in California 

An elderly man was kidnapped, beaten up, and robbed Saturday after winning money at Redding, Calif.’s Win-River Resort & Casino. /KHSL/, a local TV station, reported the unnamed victim was forced to give a ride to a man.  Both had been at the casino. When they reached a wooded area in Redding, the bandit ordered the victim into the woods. The suspect then “violently assaulted” the man, Shasta County Sheriff’s deputies said. The victim struggled with the 6 foot, 220-pound suspect. But the older man was again attacked and lost consciousness. He also lost blood from his injuries. Upon wakening in the woods, he realized the suspect had stolen much of the money the man had won at the casino. Still, he soon was able to contact Shasta County Sheriff’s deputies. 

They discovered the suspect had gotten a ride from a driver of a pickup truck. Deputies later located the suspect. He was identified as Anthony Marcell RobbinsWray, 29, of Shasta Lake, Calif. *He admitted to assaulting the man, deputies were quoted by /KHSL/. Most of the man’s casino winnings were still in RobbinsWray’s possession upon his arrest.* Upon checking Win-River surveillance video, the suspect was at the casino earlier, /KHSL/ said. The clothes he was wearing while at the casino were later located at the residence where he was arrested, deputies said. RobbinsWray was arrested for assault, robbery, elder abuse, and kidnapping with the intent to commit robbery, /KHSL/ said

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