Category Archives: Crime

A Brief Look at Crime 06/17 – 06/23

Macau Gambler Murdered over Unpaid Gambling Debts by Loan Sharks

A gambler has been found beaten to death in a Macau guesthouse, allegedly over unpaid casino debts, reports the Macau Times. The unnamed victim, aged 40, had been held captive at the boarding house by three loan sharks, who had loaned him HKD50,000 ($6,373; £4,863). When the man lost all the cash at one of Macau’s casinos, the trio gagged him and beat him to death with fists, shoes, and belts over the course of two days. According to the police, one of the loan sharks confessed to the homicide, which happened on Saturday, May 4. The police then moved in to arrest the other two loan sharks in the Outer Harbor district. The three suspects are aged between 29 and 34 and come from mainland China.

Casino panel hopes record $35M Wynn fine serves as deterrent (MA)

The record $35.5 million in fines Massachusetts imposed on Wynn Resorts and its CEO reflect the many violations uncovered but are also meant to serve as a deterrent as the nascent state casino industry takes shape, Massachusetts regulators said Wednesday. The state’s Gaming Commission on Tuesday levied a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts and another $500,000 on new CEO Matthew Maddox for failing to disclose years of allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn. But the five-member panel allowed the company to retain its state casino license and open its $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor resort as planned in June. “We do feel like that fine reflects the scope and multitude of the violations,” Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said as the panel met in Boston the morning after delivering its long-awaited decision. “We were very mindful that it should serve as punishment to really address the violations. We also thought it was necessary to provide a message of deterrence to ensure future compliance.” The commission was focused on how long company officials were aware of the allegations and how they responded, rather than the truth behind the claims. Steve Wynn, who resigned as CEO last year, has denied the allegations.

5 plead guilty in mob-run gambling and loansharking ring that kicked up millions to Genovese Crime Family 

Five New Jersey men pleaded guilty pleaded Wednesday for their roles in various financial schemes that kicked money up to the Genovese Crime Family, included loansharking and illegal sports gambling operations that raked in millions of dollars. The men wereindicted in a 2014 joint operation by multiple law enforcement agencies dubbed “Operation Fistful,” according to a release from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. “When those involved in traditional organized crime engage in schemes such as loansharking and illegal gambling, they profit at the expense of victims who are struggling with debt, gambling problems, and other issues,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “By prosecuting the men who ran these schemes and putting key defendants behind bars, we send a message that we will not tolerate these corrosive criminal activities that harm individuals, families and society as a whole.”

Gambling addict embezzled $535K and evaded $139K in taxes

An admitted gambling addict who embezzled $535,000 from her Middletown-area employers avoided a federal prison term Thursday on $139,000 worth of tax evasion charges for failing to report the income from her thefts to the IRS. Instead, U.S. Middle District Senior Judge Sylvia H. Rambo sentenced the visibly nervous Diane Fabian to 5 years of probation, banned her from gambling ever again, and required her to repay the feds at a rate of at least $25 a month. Fabian cited the ravages of her gambling addiction when she came before Cherry for sentencing. She did the same as she pleaded with Rambo for mercy. “When my addiction to gambling was going on, I never knew I had to pay taxes on the money I embezzled,” Fabian told Rambo in a trembling voice. The IRS requires taxpayers to report all their income, regardless of whether it was obtained legally. “All the money I stole went to the casino,” Fabian said. “I always thought I would win big and pay the money back…I would sit and play the slot machines until every cent was gone.” Defense attorney Corky Goldstein called a therapist, James Snyder, who testified he has treated Fabian for her gambling addiction. Snyder said Fabian’s addiction is in remission, although as with any type of addiction she faces a lifetime battle to keep it under control. “Gambling is very similar to the use of crack cocaine,” Snyder said.

Former attorney sentenced to prison for embezzling $1.3M

A former attorney has been sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzling $1.3 million from his clients. Attorney General Peter Neronha says 58-year-old Vincent Mitchell, of Coventry, Rhode Island, pleaded no contest Thursday to one count of embezzlement over $100. He was ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution. His attorney, Robert Mann, said Friday Mitchell is very remorseful, and acknowledges that many people were hurt. Mitchell voluntarily told the Rhode Island Supreme Court disciplinary counsel’s office last year that he had taken money from his clients for unauthorized personal use, which is unusual for someone who isn’t under investigation. Neronha says Mitchell used money from 11 of his older clients to cover losses from his bank accounts, stemming from substance abuse and gambling, from 2014 to 2017.

2 more Volusia internet gambling spots shut down, 184 devices seized (FL)

Volusia County sheriff’s detectives raided the rooms Wednesday and seized 184 computer devices and several thousand dollars in cash, according to a statement made public Thursday morning. Ninety gambling machines and $11,599 in cash were seized at the South Daytona location by the Sheriff’s Office-led East Volusia Narcotics Task Force with the assistance of the South Daytona Police Department, according to the statement by Andrew Gant, sheriff’s spokesman. James R. Heckaman is listed as the registered agent and manager for PrintCo, records show. Ninety-four machines and $16,366 in cash were seized at the Deltona location by members of VCSO’s West Volusia Narcotics Task Force, Deltona Narcotics Enforcement Team and Crime Suppression Team, the release said.

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


A Brief Look at Crime 06/10 – 06/16

Casino employee attempts to run over robber after being held at gunpoint 

Shreveport police are investigating following an armed robbery at a downtown casino. It happened overnight at the ElDorado Hotel and Casino’s parking garage. Police say a female employee had just finished her shift and was counting her money in her car. That’s when allegedly a gunman walked up to her and snatched her money away. However, police say she attempted to run him over as he ran away and he fired his gun. No one was hurt. The gunman was not captured and police said he dropped the money that he stole while getting away.

‘Trusted employee’ gambled away more than £103,000 of stolen money

A TRUSTED employee stole more than £103,000 from the family company where she worked, a court heard. Nicholas Berry, prosecuting, told Hereford Crown Court that Ashley had held a number of positions at the company over the years, most recently that of company accountant. An accounting discrepancy of about £15,000 was initially noted by the external accountancy company brought in to sign off the accounts, but Ashley reassured them that it was part of a private loan arrangement. Her deception was finally discovered when she became unwell prior to the 2018 meeting to sign off the accounts. Company director Simon Adam called the external accountancy company ‘to sort a few issues’ in Ashley’s absence. During the telephone call, the external accountant queried whether a three per cent interest rate was sufficient for the loan to Ashley, which Mr Adam knew nothing about. Directors Simon and Julia Adam ordered an immediate review of the accounts and confronted Ashley directly. She immediately admitted the theft, blaming financial issues that had begun to accumulate six years previously due to her use of payday loans and online gambling sites.

Former EDA director lost $700,000-plus gambling

Jennifer McDonald, the former director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, lost $753,207 gambling from 2014 to 2018, according to unsealed court documents relating to the Virginia State Police investigation into possible financial improprieties. Virginia State Police, in conjunction with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, subpoenaed documents in September from the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia, detailing McDonald’s gambling records. This came seven months after McDonald told a local media outlet that she purchased various land parcels using about $1.9 million she had won at the casino from 2014 to 2018. Virginia State Police Special Agent Eric Deel states in an affidavit that records provided by the casino show McDonald lost $753,207, with annual losses of $38,752 in 2014, $130,517 in 2015, $158,752 in 2016, $205,264 in 2017 and $219,920 in 2018. Interim EDA Director John Anzivino stated in an email that McDonald’s last budgeted salary was $115,000.

The situation is similar to the case of Byung “Peter” Bang, who served as Montgomery County, Maryland’s former Department of Economic Development director. According to the Washington Post, Bang pleaded guilty in November 2018 to federal counts including wire fraud and state charges including misconduct while in office. According to the Washington Post, it was Bang’s gambling habit that led to him embezzling $6.7 million of county money. In March, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

When McDonald resigned as director on Dec. 20, she sent the EDA board an email stating that she is liable for $2.7 million in EDA losses. Last month, the EDA filed a $17.6 million lawsuit against McDonald and nine other defendants detailing alleged embezzlement involving land dealings and misappropriation of town and county credit lines.

Man accused of robbing three St. Paul banks — one of them twice — to support gambling addiction

A man accused of stealing thousands of dollars from St. Paul bank branches in the last two months told investigators he did so because of a gambling addiction. In each instance, Hill donned a ski mask, sunglasses and gloves, walked into a St. Paul bank and handed over a note to the teller instructing the employee to hand over all available cash, authorities say. One of the notes read: “This is a robbery, cash, 90 seconds.” Another read, “We are watching you. Do not panic or set off the alarm. Hand over the 100s, 50s, 20s and 10s,” according to the complaint.Police arrested Hill Wednesday after officers tracked vehicles involved in the thefts to him, according to the charges. He admitted to stealing from the four St. Paul bank locations, as well as one in Stillwater, adding that he never threatened anyone or displayed a weapon, the complaint said. He went on to say that a gambling addiction caused his “downfall,” costing him jobs, his marriage and creating “major financial problems” in his life, according to the charges. The case comes less than a year after Hill was sentenced on a theft by swindle conviction for embezzling more than $150,000 from his former employer, HealthEast, authorities say. He received 10 years of probation in that case.

Bellefonte man sentenced after pleading guilty to embezzling nearly $1.5 million 

A former Bellefonte insurance agent was sentenced Friday to 17 years in prison and three years’ supervised release after he pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $1.5 million from dozens of individuals.U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann also ordered Hocker to pay $1,495,782 in restitution. James Hocker, 49, solicited funds from individuals throughout Centre County between 2009 and 2018 and guaranteed returns of at least 25%, though he never invested the money, according to the criminal information filed in the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania. Instead, Hocker built a life that revolved around gambling, drugs and prostitution, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alisan Martin. “(Hocker) took check upon check, staring into the faces of people who not only trusted him as a financial advisor, but cared for him as friend,” Martin wrote in her sentencing memo sent to U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann. “The government respectfully asks the court to see the defendant for the self-serving fraud that he is.” In her 19-page memo, Martin also included stories from 22 individuals who were defrauded by Hocker.

Florida man allegedly scammed victims out of nearly $7M

A man from Miami, Florida has pleaded not guilty in federal court after allegedly committing wire fraud and international money laundering, scamming victims out of nearly $7 million, including two from the Baton Rouge area. The indictment states Byers found potential victims through various social media sites, commercial services that provided investor leads, and documents that identified victims of other schemes. The indictment goes on to claim Byers talked victims into investing with his company, WBI Associates, llc, and promised victims their money would be invested in various things such as gold production, a lottery company, foreign currency, or “dark pools” or “blind pools.” Rather than investing the victims’ money, Byers allegedly spent the funds on personal things, including about $10,000 per month in rent for his home in a Miami hotel, the lease of luxury vehicles, like a Ferrari, and gambling in casinos. Byers allegedly received at least $6,888,000 as a result of the scheme. According to the indictment, two of Byers’ victims live in Louisiana, one in Baton Rouge and one in Baker.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 06/03 – 06/09

Police: Man stabbed on Mystic Lake Casino floor early Thursday morning

Prior Lake Police say a man was stabbed early Thursday morning on the floor of Mystic Lake Casino. Officers responded to the casino at 2 a.m. about the stabbing. Upon arrival, officers found one male victim with a stab wound to his abdomen. The injuries were non-life threatening. Prior Lake Police Chief Booker Hodges said the two males involved in the incident had known each other previously and came into contact with one another at the casino. One man reportedly asked the other if he had money to spare, which the other said he did not. Then, the suspect hugged the victim and stabbed him in the abdomen in the process. The suspect fled the scene, but was arrested in his hotel room at the casino shortly afterward.

Life in prison for 19-time felon shot fleeing Vegas police

A 19-time felon suspected of escaping from authorities, getting shot by Las Vegas police and leading a wild chase in a stolen truck stood before a judge the next day, his arm in a bandage, to be sentenced to life in prison. “At some point you have to say, Mr. Ganci, you can’t be in the public and not break the law,” the judge said. “I think it’s time you pay the consequences.” Ganci’s sentencing was delayed for a day after he failed to appear in court Wednesday. Smith gave Ganci five consecutive life terms without parole for being found guilty in February of armed robbery, kidnapping, battery and two counts of conspiracy. His 19th conviction was for admitting he had a gun. He had been accused of abducting and robbing a man who escaped Ganci and a woman at a Las Vegas casino. No bystanders were struck by gunfire and no one was seriously hurt in vehicles rammed by the pickup, police said.

Fake Investor Gets 5-Year Arizona Prison Term;Must Repay $1M

A Texas man who was a bogus investor has been sentenced to five years in federal prison in Arizona for stealing funds from his clients. Federal prosecutors say 33-year-old Daniel Braden was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix and ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution. Braden had previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud for inducing clients to invest in fake opportunities he promoted. Prosecutors say the Spring, Texas, man portrayed himself as an experienced trader and falsely claimed to be working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. They say Braden provided investors fabricated account statements that he created and assured investors that their funds were insured. But prosecutors say Braden diverted the funds to high-risk trading, sports and casino gambling or to support himself financially.

Philadelphia lawyer reciprocally disbarred after allegedly misappropriating funds for gambling debts 

Philadelphia attorney Frank Nathan Tobolsky has been reciprocally disbarred in Florida following a Feb. 28 Florida Supreme Court order after he allegedly misappropriated money to feed his gambling addiction, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar. A New Jersey ethics committee rejected Tobolsky’s defense “based on his gambling addiction and depression” the New Jersey Supreme Court said in its decision handed down in March 2018 to disbar Tobolsky in that state. Attorneys disbarred in Florida generally cannot reapply for admission for five years and must pass an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.

Apparent murder-suicide at Hard Rock

A doctor and his daughter are dead after an apparent murder-suicide on the grounds of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. Police found that a vehicle owned by [the father] arrived at the complex minutes before the bodies were found, and that the car was parked on the eighth floor of the Winner’s Way parking garage, Bitner said. Seminole Police haven’t said how the father and daughter died and haven’t released additional information about their case. The investigation’s preliminary findings “point to a murder-suicide,” Bitner said. [The father] was a staff radiologist at the Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West from December 2014 until his death, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was licensed to practice medicine in Florida and Michigan, state records show.

Man arrested after gambling turned deadly in Birmingham (AL)

Detectives said an altercation began while several people were gambling in the 1200 block of 12th Street North in Birmingham. At 9:21 p.m., officers from the North Precinct were called to the location and found three people shot. One person was dead, and two others, including one juvenile, were taken to UAB for treatment. Durand Witherspoon, 22, of Birmingham, has been identified as the victim. Tarek Owens, 31, of Birmingham, has been named the suspect by Birmingham Police. He is being held in the Jefferson County Jail.

Authorities destroy 600 gaming machines seized in Jefferson County

Authorities on Tuesday destroyed about 600 gaming machines seized from an illegal gambling operation in Jefferson County. Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. said the agency had paid about $22,400 to store the machines at the Pines Mall in Pine Bluff since the machines were seized in 2013. Authorities had hoped to sell the machines to a company outside the state but didn’t receive any offers. The gaming machines were destroyed as plans take shape for the first legal casino in the county. The Oklahoma-based Quapaw Tribe plans to open the Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff in 2020.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 05/27 – 06/02

Va. man gets 10 years for dogfighting, animal cruelty; 26 dogs seized from his property

A Dinwiddie County man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for dogfighting and animal cruelty. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office announced Eldridge Freeman, Jr., 44, was sentenced after he was convicted of 37 counts of animal cruelty and dogfighting involving 26 dogs back in December. Freeman is also banned from every owning a pet again. According to evidence at his hearing, Freeman participated in dogfighting at a home on Wilson Road in Dinwiddie County. Investigators found at 14x14x2 fighting pit outfitted with carpet, a tarp for a cover, and what appeared to be blood stains and smears on the inside. Dogfighting paraphernalia, heavily scarred dogs, wound dressings, and others items associated with dog breeding and dogfighting were also found on the property. Prosecutors also said Freeman kept the dogs in plastic barrels, water tanks, or plywood whelping boxes, all of which were not insulated and did not have bedding. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people.

Payson Man Sentenced For Mazatzal Casino Robbery

A Payson man, Armando Pablo Ochoa, 32, of Payson, was sentenced to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. According to the FBI, the 32-year-old Ochoa and 31-year-old or Ryan Pearson, were employees at the Mazatzal Casino when they entered the casino armed with handguns and demanded that employees open a vault. When they did not receive immediate compliance, Ochoa and Pearson each fired a round from their weapons. The incident happened at the Mazatzal Casino, located along Highway 87 in the southern area of Payson, on July 17. Ochoa admitted to using a weapon, along with co-defendant, Ryan Pearson, to rob $652,000 in cash from the casino. Pearson pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and is scheduled for sentencing on April 15, 2019.

Illegal gambling operations busted in West Phoenix 

Two businesses in west Phoenix have been cracked down for conducting illegal gambling operations. The Arizona Department of Gaming led a combined operation to execute warrants related to illegal gambling operations. Police officers from Phoenix and Glendale and ADG agents conducted the searches at Lan Anh Billiards, 2635 W. Bethany Home Road and Thanh Long Billiards, near 35th Avenue and Indian School Road. The ADG said its agents seized close to $1 million in cash, several illegal gambling devices (seven Dragon games) and other assets. The case will be sent to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for prosecution. The unnamed suspects could face charges up to a class 5 felony for conducting a criminal enterprise and other miscellaneous charges. “I wish to thank our agents, as well as our partners in the Phoenix and Glendale police departments for their hard work,” Ted Vogt, director of the ADG, stated in a release. “The Arizona Department of Gaming takes its duty to enforce the gambling laws in our state seriously. Our agents are steadfast in thoroughly investigating all suspected illegal gambling activities to protect the public and ensure compliance with the law.”

Scottish National Party: Damage Gambling Firms Damage to Gamblers Cause “Tantamount to Gross Negligence” 

Ronnie Cowan, MP for Inverclyde and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fixed odds betting terminals, wrote his article in Politics Home ahead of his debate today on gambling-related harm at Westminister Hall. Talking about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, Cowan stated that people know the harm these things can cause; however, when it becomes a matter of gambling the harm involved isn’t always so obvious. He wrote: “Debt incurred from gambling creates instability, insecurity and can lead to bankruptcy and in the extreme, result in criminal activities. Relationships can be disrupted and often lead to emotional and social isolation. This can lead to mistrust and erodes cohesive relationships.” Additionally, he noted that suicide can play a role in gambling-related stress. Citing figures from Gambling with Lives, Cowan said that between 4% and 11% of suicides are linked to gambling. This is the equivalent of around 250-620 deaths each year in the UK. He added: “To make it perfectly blunt, the gambling companies have stacked the odds against the punters and the damage that is being done needs to be redressed.”

New Jersey Gambling Regulator Fines for Self-Exclusion and Geolocation Failures

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has slapped a hefty fine on GVC Holdings and its Atlantic City land-based casino partner Borgata Hotel Casino for self-exclusion failures. is facing the consequences of its *failure to prevent self-excluded players* from gambling online. As a result, 12 gamblers, who had previously opted to self-exclude from wagering, lost the amount of *$41,759.49*. In a separate civiл order, the Borgata was ordered to forfeit the exact amount of gambling money lost by the 12 self-excluded individuals once it receives an invoice from the Division.

The Borgata has recently received another slap on the wrist by the New Jersey gambling regulator, that one for *failing to prevent a gambler based in California* from accessing its online gaming offering. In an order from earlier this year, the Division ordered the Borgata and Caesars Interactive, the online gambling division of Caesars Entertainment Corp., to *forfeit more than $90,000*. The money was found in the online gambling accounts of Vinh Dao, a California resident who found a way around the geolocation technology used by New Jersey’s casinos to prevent out-of-state gambling.

Woman accused of stealing $60,000 from casino card player (FL)

A card player woke up late and groggy in his Hollywood hotel room and discovered about $60,000 was gone from the pockets of his jeans. Police say the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino guest met a woman at the blackjack tables and she accompanied him to his room. The woman was wearing a short, olive-colored dress that zipped up the back and had a colorful tattoo on her left forearm. Before they began the massage that she offered, the woman suggested the man take a sip of his drink. That was all the man remembered from the 2:30 a.m. encounter on March 26, 2017. He told police he believed he was drugged because he woke up that day at noon, and he never sleeps late, an arrest report said. The man’s gray Hard Rock Cafe sweatshirt also was missing, and hotel surveillance video showed a woman wearing it as she left his room, an arrest report said. On Monday, Seminole Police said Las Vegas police picked up Villalobos on an arrest warrant.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 5/20 – 5/26

Number Of Underage Minors With Gambling Problems In UK Increases 400 Percent In Two Years

In a recent audit report published by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) the number of children with a gambling addiction has increased four times in the past two years. As per the report, the number of children between 11 to 16 years of age having compulsive gambling issues is approximately 55, 000. The figures are alarming and have raised concerns amongst lawmakers. Earlier this year the gambling commission had restricted gambling advertisements on mediums where children are more likely to come across gambling adverts. The report reveals that over 70,000 young children are at risk. It also estimates that 450,000 children indulge in gambling activities and place wagers more often. This is to say that one in every seven children between 11 to 16 years participates in gambling activities.

The audit report finds that the children bet an average of £16 per week on through various mediums including bingo, betting shops, online casinos others. All these platforms are illegal for those under 18. Expressing his concerns over rising gambling problems amongst children The Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Alan Smith, said: “We need to start taking the dangers of gambling seriously – 55,000 children classed as problem gamblers is a generational scandal.” The primary source of children seeing gambling advertisements is Television as revealed in the report. The TV sources account for over 70 percent of the gambling adverts seen by children. Also, around one million teenagers and children were exposed to gambling through “loot boxes” in video games or smartphone apps.

Council Bluffs gambler facing federal charges for allegedly false tax filings in Nebraska

A grand jury in Nebraska indicted a Council Bluffs, Iowa, gambler Monday on suspicion of filing false tax returns for allegedly underreporting his earnings from being a bookie for an online, off-shore gambling operation. Tony Merksick reported $163,249 in gross receipts on his 2012 taxes rather than the $501,072 he should have reported; and $150,957 rather than $233,520 on his 2013 taxes, according to court records. In them, Derick Tarr, a special agent with the IRS’ criminal investigation unit, said Merksick told investigators he created TJM Enterprises Inc. 10 years ago for reporting his professional gambling earnings and expenses for income tax purposes and to be able to get personal loans and buy assets. But, Tarr said, the investigation revealed Merksick actually was operating as a bookmaker for an online gambling operation that used servers in Costa Rica. As a bookie, Merksick took bets, paid out winnings and collected gambling losses from clients and profited by setting the odds for all the wagers he collected, the special agent said. Tarr alleged that Merksick used other bank accounts he had access to in order to deposit unreported gross receipts. He said Merksick also failed to report the majority of cash gross receipts he received from his operation and was believed to have kept large sums of cash on hand. Tarr said the investigation identified “runners,” people who collected gambling debts and paid wins for Merksick, who said they collected several thousand dollars weekly.

Reverent Who Gambled Away CA$480K Refugee Cash Prepares for Sentencing Hearing

When it comes to problem gambling and its negative impact on players, there is really no one protected from the devastating outcome of compulsive gambling. This could be confirmed by a once-London priest who managed to burn through*more than CA$438,000 in cash locals raised for bringing refugees back home*. Reverent Amer Saka recently pleaded guilty once more in London. Problem gambling is a concerning issue which has the capacity to alter one’s life and take a toll on cherished relationships. It could easily get out of hand in no time, eventually affecting not only the personal life of an individual but also their career path. *Gambling with people’s future and their chances of returning to their beloved ones* and homes could be considered a crime itself, but what truly stunned London and Kitchener. Reverent Saka allegedly took advantage of his authority and the money he kept for refugees making their way back home to their friends and families. *He pleaded guilty to fraud over CA$5,000,* clarifying that it was his gambling addiction that eventually led to the unfortunate turn of events and the crime he committed.

St. Croix Chippewa Indians May Face Federal Inquiry after Allegations Involving $1.5M of Casino Funds

St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin risk paying up to $27 million in fines after audits claim more than $1.5 million of tribal casino money was improperly spent, misaccounted for, or apparently used for personal expenses. The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) dated on April 11 which says the tribe committed 527 infringements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and other laws. Each of the instances — which basically took place between 2014 and 2017 — could result in a fine of up to $52,596. Also, further investigation could take place by federal law enforcement or tax authorities, Rory Dilweg, an attorney at Colorado-based Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti, told / The NIGC — a national tribal gaming regulator — warned the allegations are “serious” and noted their “pervasiveness.” Sometimes, the tribe showed a “complete disregard” for the rules found in the IGRA. On several occasions, tribal leaders used a casino credit card to pay for improper first-class flights to Hawaii or Las Vegas, the NIGC said. Additionally, the tribe made “substantial payments” to consultants and businesses “without a contract, record, or even a later recollection of the goods or services provided in exchange,” the notice said.

Pitchlynn said the allegations illustrate the need for the Wisconsin tribe to set up “an independent regulatory body that does not owe allegiance to elected officials, but to the tribe as a whole. “This is what often happens when there is not a separation between the political body of a tribe and the operation and regulatory activities of the gaming enterprises.” Attorney Dilweg said the allegations — if true — were preventable. There needs to be “strict rules” on how casino revenues “can be spent and who can authorize expenditures,” he said. With “proper documentation” of expenditures, revenues can be “properly audited,” Dilweg added.

Sands Bethlehem’s Underage Gambling Fines Now Eclipse $500,000

Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem took a hit to its bank account last week thanks to $230,000 in fines. The Pennsylvania Gaming and Control Board’s Office of Enforcement Council met and announced two separate fines. The fines were in response to both*underage gaming violations* ($120,000) and *improper use of free slot play* ($110,000). The Meadows in Washington County also received a*$12,500* fine for an underage gaming violation. In that instance, an 18-year-old male accessed the gaming floor, wagered at table games, and was served alcohol. Sands Casino has frequent underage violations. Sands broke underage gambling laws 11 times in this most recent complaint.

Former EDA director lost $700,000-plus gambling 

Jennifer McDonald, the former director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, lost $753,207 gambling from 2014 to 2018, according to unsealed court documents relating to the Virginia State Police investigation into possible financial improprieties. Virginia State Police, in conjunction with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, subpoenaed documents in September from the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia, detailing McDonald’s gambling records. This came seven months after McDonald told a local media outlet that she purchased various land parcels using about $1.9 million she had won at the casino from 2014 to 2018. The situation is similar to the case of Byung “Peter” Bang, who served as Montgomery County, Maryland’s former Department of Economic Development director. According to the Washington Post, Bang pleaded guilty in November 2018 to federal counts including wire fraud and state charges including misconduct while in office. According to the Washington Post, it was Bang’s gambling habit that led to him embezzling $6.7 million of county money. In March, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 5/13 – 5/19

Manager of CBS employees’ credit union stole $40M over 20 years, authorities say

A credit union set up to serve employees of CBS was shuttered last week after its manager was accused of embezzling $40 million over 20 years, according to reports. If convicted on both counts, he faces up to 32 years in prison and a $1 million fine, Deadline Hollywood reported. Prosecutors say Rostohar, as manager, made online payments to himself from his employer or forged a fellow employee’s signature on checks made out to him. He gambled away much of the money and also financed a lavish lifestyle that included flights on private jets and purchases of expensive watches and sports cars, Variety reported. The alleged scheme began sometime before 2000, but suspicions were finally raised March 6 of this year, when another credit union employee discovered a $35,000 check made out to Rostohar with no record of the reason justifying the large sum, prosecutors said. That employee then conducted an audit and learned that checks totaling $3.7 million had been made out to Rostohar since January 2018, according to prosecutors. Rostohar was suspended from his job soon after, then arrested after his wife called 911, saying her husband had stolen money from his employer and was planning to leave the U.S., prosecutors said. Authorities said Rostohar later told them he had been stealing for 20 years, taking more than $40 million over that time. The information was later confirmed by the National Credit Union Administration, authorities said

Donora man pleads guilty to scamming $159,000 from retiree

A Donora man has pleaded guilty to using a mafia-style threat to bilk $159,000 from a retired schoolteacher in Lancaster County. Taylor was arrested in May 2017 by the state attorney general’s office on accusations he stole the money from Karen Fedrow of Lancaster while threatening that she would face retaliation from the mafia if she didn’t give him money, which amounted to the then-69-year-old woman’s life’s savings. He stole the money between February and August 2013, and then gambled it away at The Meadows Casino in North Strabane Township and other area casinos, prosecutors said. Taylor, who was a standout basketball player at Ringgold High School, told the woman she had to pay the boss before he would earn her returns through investments. The victim met Taylor in 2012 when she rented him a house she inherited in Westmoreland County. She told investigators she was charmed by him.

Former Gallatin County district court clerk admits to fraud 

A former elected Gallatin County Clerk of District Court pleaded guilty Tuesday to accusations of wire fraud and falsifying income tax return documents relating to her money managing consulting firm. Montana’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit received a complaint in 2015 that alleged Van Ausdol was misusing client funds. The unit began investigating, and in February referred the complaint to the Montana Department of Justice. The FBI later joined the investigation. The investigation showed Van Ausdol embezzled approximately $444,000 from her clients from 2010 to 2016. The investigation also showed Van Ausdol owed an additional $52,894 to the IRS in taxes because she did not report additional money received through her embezzlement. Van Ausdol admitted to embezzling money from her clients to law enforcement in 2015 and continued to work as a consultant. She told law enforcement that she used the money to cover gambling expenses.

New Jersey Seizes More Than $107K in Winnings From Banned Gamblers

New Jersey regulators have seized more than $107,000 won by underage or otherwise prohibited gamblers at Atlantic City’s Borgata casino. As part of the action made public recently by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, regulators also issued a fine of $81,000 for the Borgata’s online gambling partner, The company agreed to the fine and did not contest it. The cases involved gamblers who were under the legal age of 21 or those who voluntarily agreed to be barred from casino and online gambling for a period of time but were allowed to gamble sooner than they had been set out. Those so-called self-exclusion lists are meant to help people who feel they have a gambling problem. The Borgata says it takes gambling compliance seriously and notes that it discovered and reported the illegal gamblers to the state on its own.

Gambling addict mother stole £100,000 raised by Leeds United stars for her six-year-old cancer treatment

A mother who stole £140,000 raised for her six-year-old son’s cancer treatment has today been spared jail. Toby was diagnosed with rare cancer neuroblastoma on his fourth birthday in January 2017 and his family launched an appeal to raise £200,000 to pay for therapy which was not available on the NHS. Leeds United players and the club’s fans helped raise the cash for the six-year-old’s treatment but Worsley lost around £140,000 on online gambling sites, Leeds Crown Court heard. Toby passed away from a brain tumour in January this year, after a ‘long and courageous fight’. The court heard how Toby’s £200,000 treatment was eventually funded after Leeds United football club became involved in the fundraising. But the youngster died earlier this year, aged six. She admitted fraud at an earlier hearing. He said the cash had been recovered from the online gambling companies and West Yorkshire Police currently hold around £135,000 which would be given back to major donors and other charities. Nicholas De La Poer, defending, said: ‘The gambling started with the best of intentions and it became a compulsive distraction from the horrors of the situation.’ The barrister said the online betting ‘spiralled hopelessly out of control’ and ‘she was in the grip of it’.

White Plains developer Michael D’Alessio sentenced in $58M Westchester, NYC, Hamptons real estate fraud 

D’Alessio, 53, once a successful developer who had an office on Water Street in White Plains, was arrested in August on a federal wire-fraud charge in connection with an alleged years-long scheme to defraud investors in luxury real estate development projects in Westchester County, Manhattan and the Hamptons. D’Alessio promised investors that he would develop and build luxury homes and condominiums that would yield big returns, but when the real estate market took a downturn, he resorted to fraud, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. “In the end, all he built was a Ponzi scheme that he used to rip off his investors of their hard-earned life savings to the tune of $58 million,” Berman said in a statement. Michael D’Alessio, a White Plains developer who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of defrauding investors out of about $58 million, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison D’Alessio’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, petitioned the court, saying that D’Alessio is a “fundamentally decent man who unfortunately committed serious crimes” as he suffered from the “vicious grip of a compulsive gambling disorder” that Brafman said was further intensified by D’Alessio’s use of **a prescription medication.

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A Brief Look at Crime 5/6 – 5/12

Police: Dead robber hit same casino in November 

Police say a 49-year-old twice-convicted bank robber who died exchanging gunfire with police while trying to flee a casino robbery was responsible for a similar heist in November at the same Las Vegas Strip resort. Clark County Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank showed side-by-side photos Monday of Michael Charles Cohen wearing a bandage on his face, glasses and a black knit cap in robberies Friday and last November at the Bellagio resort. Cohen was fatally shot by police after trying to carjack a motorist and then shooting a police officer in his bulletproof vest in a hotel valet parking area. The officer escaped serious injury. His name was not made public. Hank says Cohen was previously convicted of bank robberies in Nevada in 1999 and 2008. In November, police say a car owner-turned-carjacking victim managed to free himself from the trunk of a getaway car while Cohen was inside the Bellagio robbing a poker room cashier.

Former Winnebago tribal official is seventh to plead guilty of stealing from casino

A former Winnebago Tribal Council member pleaded guilty Thursday to theft from the tribe’s casino. Travis Mallory, 41, entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Omaha to one count of theft of funds belonging to an Indian gaming establishment. Sentencing was scheduled for July 8. Mallory is the seventh former tribal official who has pleaded guilty to using WinnaVegas Casino Resort funds for pay for personal raises and/or bonuses. Charles Aldrich, Louis Houghton, Lawrence Payer, Thomas Snowball, former tribal chairman John Blackhawk and former tribal vice chairman Darwin Snyder all have been placed on five years probation and were ordered to pay restitution ranging from $36,000 to $36,500. Each pleaded guilty to theft from a gaming establishment. Nine former council members were indicted in July 2016 on charges of conspiracy, theft from a gaming establishment on Indian lands and wire fraud. An FBI investigation determined that while on the tribal council, members had given themselves raises and bonuses totaling $327,500 directly from the tribe’s WinnaVegas Casino Resort without approving them at council meetings. The distributions were recorded on the casino’s books as miscellaneous administrative expenses.

Lawyer Sentenced to 8 Years, Ordered to Repay $1.3 M 

A Kentucky lawyer who admitted to pocketing more than $1.3 million from clients to pay personal expenses that included gambling losses has been sentenced to eight years in prison. A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Friday says Danny Butler of Campbellsville also was ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution. Butler pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Bowling Green to five counts of wire fraud for obtaining money from clients for legal work he didn’t do and to stealing money from estates Federal prosecutors said he lived an extravagant lifestyle and ran up gambling losses of $1.5 million. The scheme unraveled when two brothers waiting for proceeds of an estate contacted authorities about Butler’s continued excuses for not turning over the money.

Arizona Department of Gaming Seizes More Than $1M in Illegal Proceeds

There is a new form of gambling in town, and Arizona has been trying to stamp it out. Earlier this month, Arizona authorities seized more than $1 million in illegal gambling money from two Phoenix billiard halls. They also arrested nearly a dozen people. The billiard halls, which are in a largely Asian enclave, had illegal Dragon games in their back rooms. Dragon games are illegal gaming devices, and they represent a new wave of gambling in the state. Dragon Games are arcade games Asians love to place bets on. Another name for the games is “fish games.” Billiard halls in Arizona usually have a separate room for “fish games.” These are frequently back rooms with fish motifs. Patrons play all Dragon games the same way. They are a cross between slot machines and arcade games. In each game, the player puts money into the machine. He or she kills as many fish as possible. The amount of money a player wins depends on how many fish he or she has killed. Many fish games operate much like a multiplayer shooting tournament.

North Florida Bingo Operators Forfeit Nearly $6M in Illegal Profits

It is no secret that gambling can sometimes bring out the worst in people. When the stakes are high, people can sometimes get so enthralled with the huge jackpot that they will do anything to get the money in their possession and keep it. Illegal gambling rings are also more common than some may think. Law enforcement is cracking down on many of these operations, and those in charge of the illicit gaming rings pay for their crimes. Recently, a couple in Pensacola has been ordered to give up almost $6 million. The couple made money while facilitating illegal bingo games. The news comes from a release from the Northern District of Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office. The couple had been running the bingo games for years before being caught. Between 2006 and 2015, the Masinos received over $20 million from the illegal bingo games they were running at Racetrack Bingo, their business in Fort Walton Beach. The pair, as well as their three children, kept $5,813,584 of the profits from the bingo games. Recently, M. Casey Rodgers, a U.S. District Judge, signed off on a forfeiture order. The order will require the Masinos to return the money. The couple will also have to give up the three houses they bought using the money from their illegal business dealings.

Kosovo aims to ban gambling after two casino workers killed in robberies 

Kosovo’s government said it will ban gambling for 10 years following the deaths of two casino workers this month during armed robberies in separate towns. After the deaths, customs officials raided dozens of gambling shops and found many of them were operating illegally. More than one hundred slot machines were confiscated. Only a state controlled lottery will be able to operate, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said during a government session on Tuesday at which the cabinet voted to back the 10 year ban. “It is total chaos, a total abuse and it is good that we are stopping this,” Haradinaj told a press conference. The ban proposal will now be sent to parliament for approval.

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