A Brief Look at Crime 12/21 – 01/03

North Shore butcher who made $3.7M from illegal gambling

The year Domenic Poeta purchased a $1.5 million home in Highland Park, the feds say he told the IRS he made less than $12,000. That was in 2008. The year before, Poeta allegedly reported $38,975 in income. In 2009, he reported $18,835. But prosecutors say the North Shore butcher’s spending managed to dwarf his reported income because he ran an illegal sports gambling business on the side. Poeta, 63, admitted earlier this year that he made more than $3.7 million from that bookmaking business between 2012 and 2017, dodging $1.4 million in taxes. So Monday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced Poeta to a year in federal prison and ordered him to pay the $1.4 million he owes.

Woman sentenced for $287K embezzlement from Warren County employer

A Kettering woman was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for embezzlement of $287,887 from her Warren County employer. Judge Robert Peeler sentenced Alison McGaughey, 40, for telecommunications fraud and identity fraud during a hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court. Peeler also ordered restitution of more than $37,000 to the employer victimized in the case, Nelson & Associates, a low-income housing developer and manager.

In addition, the judge ordered McGaughey to make restitution of more than $122,000 to Great American Insurance, which partially compensated the company for its loss McGaughey was indicted in March on charges of telecommunications fraud, aggravated theft, unauthorized use of property, identity fraud and tampering with records. She was accused of stealing the money to cover gambling debts and pay for vacations and personal items, as well as altering computer records and forging bank statements to cover up the thefts.

‘Tony Meatballs’ among 15 mobsters busted in Philadelphia

A reputed wiseguy nicknamed “Tony Meatballs” is among more than a dirty dozen alleged South Philly  mobsters charged in a sweeping federal indictment unsealed Monday. The suspects are accused of everything from illegal sports betting to heroin-peddling to offering loans at 400 percent interest — not to mention plotting to kidnap and possibly murder a drug dealer to save their reputations after the guy sold them fake narcotics. “The charges unsealed today against these 15 alleged members and associates of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra show that the mafia remains a criminal presence in our city and beyond,” said Michael Driscoll, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, in a statement. “From loansharking and illegal gambling to drug trafficking and extortion, the mob continues to keep its fingers in many different pots, in its ceaseless quest for illegal profits.

Shooting leads officers to possible gambling den at motel

A 30-year-old man was shot at a motel in the Del Cerro neighborhood Saturday, and officers believe the violence was tied to some kind of illegal gambling operation. The shooting was reported just before 6 a.m. at the Rodeway Inn on Adobe Falls Road, according to Officer Tony Martinez of the San Diego Police Department. Officers arrived and found a man across the street from the motel who had been shot in his stomach and buttocks. The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment, but was expected to survive, according to Martinez. As investigators worked through the scene, they stumbled upon something unexpected: some kind of illegal gambling operation on the second floor of the motel. “Inside one of the rooms, officers found what looked like possible illegal gambling,” San Diego Police Lt. David Bautista explained. Bautista didn’t elaborate on the nature of the set-up, but conversations on a police scanner indicated there were gambling machines of some sort set up in the room.

California Underground Slots Fugitive Pleads Guilty to Illegal Gambling, Money Laundering After Israel Extradition

One of two Israeli brothers behind an illegal slot machine empire that once stretched across Northern California is finally facing justice in the US. Orel Gohar, 30, fled to Israel in 2017 as the net closed in on the operation, dubbed the Gohar Organization by authorities. Gohar was arrested by Israeli police in Tel Aviv in December 2019, where he had been “moving frequently between apartments to evade authorities,  according to court documents. On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California to illegal gambling, money laundering, and failing to appear. *Prosecutors believe the brains behind the operation was Yaniv Gohar, Orel’s brother, who was sentenced to four years in prison in September 2019. Meanwhile, Orel was the point man of the operation, who boasted of personally earning $500k per year from the gambling ring. 

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

Guest Article: Editorial: Why won’t state and local officials enforce Missouri gaming laws?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of shutting down illegal slot machines that popped up all over in Missouri gas stations and similar business.  Those machines were finally the subject of a proper lawsuit  giving way to full enforcement of Missouri’s regulations to only allow slot machines in regulated casinos.  However, that enforcement has been almost non-existent.  Nearly two months ago it was reported that enforcement wasn’t happening as expected  and it doesn’t seem to have picked up too much.  The following article is from the Editorial Board at the St Louis Post Dispatch and can be read in its entirety HERE, with a few highlights below: 

It is illegal in Missouri to host gambling machines except in licensed casinos. The law is clear on that, and just for good measure, a judge in September confirmed it. So why are state officials and local prosecutors still failing to confront the bars and gas stations that are hosting thousands of these unlicensed video gambling machines?

Some argue that gambling should be legalized across the state altogether, if only because it’s already everywhere anyway. But legalization must come with oversight and taxation, which still isn’t being applied to these rogue games. That must change, especially at a time when the state should be scrounging for every bit of revenue it can find.

At issue are some 14,000 video machines in business venues all over the state that players pay to play on the chance of making more money back. If that sounds like exactly what goes on in a casino, well, it is. Yet the machines aren’t licensed, taxed or regulated by the state, in blatant violation of Missouri’s gaming statutes…

There is no reasonable justification for it. They’re just doing it, and getting away with it, in large part because the industry lobbies heavily and contributes to politicians’ campaigns, including Gov. Mike Parson’s.

The fact is, the judge’s ruling wasn’t even necessary for state officials and local prosecutors to move on this. The purveyors of these machines are breaking the law. Until the law changes, they and the business venues that host them should be raided, prosecuted and fined. Period. They have gambled on Missouri’s patience long enough.

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

A Brief Look at Crime 12/14 -12/20

‘Monster’ Granny Murdered Her Husband And A Lookalike Woman To Feed Gambling Addiction

David Riess was a kind, small-town Minnesota worm farmer, but as a former family friend put it, his wife, Lois Riess a “monster.” It was Lois who murdered David at their home in March 2018 before fleeing to Florida, where she killed a look-alike stranger, Pamela Hutchinson. Same murder weapon: a 22-caliber pistol. Same modus operandi: bodies left to rot in a bathroom, where towels were positioned to hide the horrid smell of decomposition. Same motive: to snag money to feed her gambling addiction. 

At the end, Lois’ crimes spanned two states. She was prosecuted first in Florida, where she faced an array of charges including homicide, grand theft, grand theft auto, and identity theft   — which meant the possibility of the death penalty. But due to an “overburdened” legal system, justice would be delayed, according to Grace. Eventually, in December 2019, prosecutors took the death penalty off the table in exchange for a guilty plea from Lois. She was sentenced to life prison for the murder of Hutchinson — whom she eventually admitted she killed because they looked alike.

Macau Clamps Down on 97 Illegal Gambling Sites in 2020 (China)

Macau has reported that *97 websites* linked to illicit gambling or fraud have been shut so far in *2020*, and specifically covering the first eight months of the year through *August*. Macau police authorities arrested a number of individuals suspected of running the websites and facilitating illegal gambling transactions. Overall, *125 websites* were identified that broke the existing legislation that forbids online gambling activities. However, police was able to act against only *97* of those as the remainder of the websites was hosted overseas and beyond the reach of Macau authorities. All of these developments were featured in the *Policy Address 2021* published on *Monday*, and outlining Macau’s fight against illegal gambling operations. City Chief Executive *Ho Iat Seng* spoke during a Legislative Assembly meeting, and said that he and the government remained committed to fighting illegal gambling operations and raise awareness for responsible gambling.

Australian media regulator blocks 180 online illegal gambling sites

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that is responsible for regulating internet and digital media in the country has blocked four more websites that host illegal gambling and casino services. The total has now reached 180 since the ACMA started to block illegal URLs from November 2019. The ACMA stated that these online gaming and gambling websites have violated Interactive Gambling Act of the country and have been blocked following complaints from the Australian customers.

Woman sentenced in St. Louis federal court to 2 years for embezzling from glass company

An O’Fallon, Missouri, woman was sentenced to two years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to embezzling $433,000 from her employer. Susan E. Darrow was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig on one count of federal bank fraud after entering a guilty plea in August. In the plea agreement, Darrow admitted that from April 2014 to December 2019 she transferred money from the bank account of her employer, the Missouri Valley Glass Co., to her personal accounts. She started at the St. Charles County construction contractor as an office manager in 2013. Darrow spent large amounts of the money at casinos as well as to pay off home renovations and debt, according to her plea agreement. A tax consultant discovered the missing funds in 2019 and Darrow admitted to the embezzlement, according to the plea. The business owner had to take out personal loans to avoid bankruptcy as a result of the fraud, the plea states. In addition to prison time, Darrow was ordered to pay about $363,000 in restitution.

North Shore butcher who made $3.7M from illegal gambling business gets one year in prison 

The year Domenic Poeta purchased a $1.5 million home in Highland Park, the feds say he told the IRS he made less than $12,000. That was in 2008. The year before, Poeta allegedly reported $38,975 in income. In 2009, he reported $18,835. But prosecutors say the North Shore butcher’s spending managed to dwarf his reported income because he ran an illegal sports gambling business on the side. Poeta, 63, admitted earlier this year that he made more than $3.7 million from that bookmaking business between 2012 and 2017, dodging $1.4 million in taxes. So Monday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced Poeta to a year in federal prison and ordered him to pay the $1.4 million he owes. “The amount involved here is pretty breathtaking, quite honestly,” Kennelly said during the hearing, which took place by videoconference. “And it’s quite likely an undercount by a pretty significant amount.” Prosecutors said they calculated the amount of taxes Poeta dodged only based on checks deposited into Poeta’s personal bank accounts by seven known gamblers in payment of losing wagers. They said Poeta actually began collecting illegal — and unreported — income long before 2012.

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

New Covid-19 Guidelines lower Las Vegas Casino Occupancy to 25%

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing efforts to ensure covid-19 isn’t being spread through mass gambling activities.  Casinos have received tremendous criticism for not taking the popper precautions, both to protect the public, and to protect those workers at those operating casinos.  Employees have had to sue or act as whistleblowers to expose the labor issues seen in various casinos.  Most recently, there was criticism over Vegas casinos entwined in properly reporting key information to the public.  So its no surprise that this industry in particular is looked at as playing a more critical role in the spread of Covid-19.  As a result, new guidelines have been passed that limit the occupancy further in Las Vegas casinos.  The Las Vegas Review Journal reports:

In a Sunday press conference, Sisolak said effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, occupancy limitations at casinos and their bars and restaurants will be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent. Sisolak said he has had conversations with “most gaming operators” in the last 24 hours, and said the full force of the Nevada Gaming Control Board will be behind the implementation and enforcement of the new requirements. He added that if casinos do not follow the new requirements, “they will suffer the consequences.”

Newly-appointed Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson said the state’s gaming regulatory body will vigorously enforce the new gaming floor occupancy restrictions among the state’s licensees. “The more successfully Nevada mitigates the current spread of COVID over the next several weeks, the more likely we are to experience a complete return to current gaming floor occupancy percentages at that point” he said. The Nevada Gaming Commission already has acted on nine complaints brought by the Control Board against licensees since late July.

A spokesperson for Caesars Entertainment Inc. said the company will comply with Sisolak’s orders. Its restaurants and bars will remain open and continue to offer to-go options, and guests at most of its Nevada resorts will have the option to order pick up or delivery to their hotel Room. Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company will also implement the directives of the pause. “We believe the Governor made a prudent decision that will protect public health,” he said.

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A Brief Look at Crime 12/07 – 12/13

Gambler Kidnapped Son of Debtor Over $4 Million Loan

A kidnapper who snatched a 12-year-old boy off the street in a bid to recoup an AU$5.5 million ($4 million USD) gambling debt from the boy’s father apologized to his victim as he was handed a seven-year prison Tuesday. Australia’s ABC reports that Zhen Jie “Kenny” Zhang, 55, told the boy he was “deeply sorry” for the ordeal he subjected him to on May 11-12, 2018 when he bundled him into his Jeep outside his home on Australia’s Gold Coast. Zhang kept the boy prisoner for 16 hours, during which time a mask was tied onto his face. After he made several attempts to escape, a towel was stuffed into his mouth and his head was tied to a car seat. Prosecutors said the boy was only given water twice and allowed to urinate once during his period of captivity. Photographs of the boy in this state, described by prosecutors as “disturbing,” were shown to the court. A text was sent to his parents that read: “Watch out… wait for pick up the body.” The boy was found by police in the back of the car 150 miles away from where he had been abducted after a tip from a member of the public. “If you feel afraid please forgive me for that; your father was acting terribly [and] owed me a substantial amount of money,” the kidnapper told the boy in court through a Mandarin interpreter. “I felt I had no other option.”

Journalist Tied to a Pole, Beaten For Reporting on Illegal Gambling (India)

The image of a local journalist being tied to an electric pole while a group of men assault him in a broad daylight has gone viral in Assam. Milan Mahanta, a correspondent for the Assamese daily /Pratidin,/ had stopped at a /paan/ shop on Sunday afternoon at Mirza, a town located in Kamrup district, when the assault took place. Mirza is around 35 kilometres from state capital, Guwahati. Incidentally, the attack took place on the day the nation marked National Press Day. The incident has sparked uproar on social media, with many expressing concern for journalists working in Assam under the present political dispensation. Mahanta was on his way to attend a meeting when a group of seven men surrounded him and dragged him from the /paan/ shop before tying him to an electric pole with cables at Mirza Teeniali, a well-known spot  located in the centre of Mirza town. For the past week, Mahanta has been reporting on illegal gambling activities, which have been mushrooming with the onset of Diwali festivities. He angered an alleged local ruffian who, as accused by locals in Mirza, has also indulged in land grabbing activities.

New Research Shows Online Gambling Account Takeovers Are On the Rise, Especially During Covid-19 Lockdown

New research has revealed that over 50% of online gambling companies have faced an increase in fraud involving account takeover. The increase is presumably happening because of the surge in online gambling activity during the coronavirus lockdown that literally stripped them of land-based gambling options. The fraud detection and payment acceptance company /Ravelin/ shared that the results of a new survey showed that 52% of companies that operate in *the online gambling sector* have seen a considerable rise in account takeover activity over the past year. As /Ravelin/ explained, so-called “account takeover activity” is associated with fraudsters gaining access to a third-party account that does not belong to them to steal money.

In fact, online gambling operators remained in second place after only taxi companies in terms of the average number of account takeover attacks on an annual basis. *Online gambling firms saw an average of 60 account takeover attacks* on an annual basis, while taxi firms experienced 65 attacks on average. The results of the report showed that the attacks involve *unauthorized individuals getting customer details* to take control of their online accounts and then *sell the compromised data to third parties* or *use the account themselves* to spend large amounts on various goods or services.

Men pretended to be detectives so they could ‘confiscate’ gaming machines from Houston store, police say 

Houston police are looking for the suspects accused of impersonating a public servant so they could steal gaming machines from a store. The crime happened on Oct. 27 shortly after 8 p.m., according to the Houston Police Department. Two men walked into the Valero at 6915 Telephone and identified themselves as detectives with the gaming commission authority, and they told the clerk they had a seizure order to confiscate the machines due to illegal gambling. The men had badges and handguns. They also had dollies to load up the equipment on the back of large, white Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck. The suspects fled the scene and have not yet been identified or arrested. Houston police noted that Texas does not even have a state gaming commission, and the “seizure order” that was presented to the clerk had what appeared to have an official stamp and had a signature with a fake judge’s name. Police believe the pair may have done this before, but the victims may have feared reporting the crimes. Each of the stolen machines is valued at $2,500 plus any cash that was inside them.

Ex-office manager gets prison for $1 million embezzlement scheme

The former office manager of a Fayette County medical practice was sentenced Thursday to 28 months in federal prison for embezzling nearly $1 million over five years. U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak imposed that term on Cynthia Demniak, who had pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud and filing false tax returns following an investigation by the IRS and U.S. postal inspectors. Demniak, 60, of Leckrone, Pa., had been the office manager at Grandview Medical Management in Uniontown. Between 2013 and 2018, she embezzled $926,940 and used it for personal expenses and to feed her gambling addiction. For tax years 2013 through 2018, she also underreported the stolen money on her federal income tax returns and as a result owed $270,426 to the IRS.

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

Loot Box Gambling in Video Games Front and Center of new UK Legislative Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to classify loot boxes as gambling.  Most recently, the Netherlands issues huge fines against video game publisher EA over this gambling type mechanic in their game Fifa and Spain has shifted focus to regulating these loot boxes as gambling to help protect the children who play these video games.  The UK has been examining the issue for a while, and a new effort being pushed by a local legislator is placing loot boxes front and center.  An online source reports:

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson called for the updating of gambling laws to include tougher action to prevent children and young people being encouraged into gambling-like behaviours while using video games. After the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister Nigel Huddleston outlined plans for a forthcoming gambling review, the Midlothian MP called for it to include measures to regulate the use of “loot boxes” in video games. Academic research has linked loot box spending to problem gambling in adolescents.

Mr Thompson called for an extension of the Gambling Act 2005 to include loot boxes and action to prevent video game companies from profiteering on the back of young people who develop gambling-like addictions.

Mr Thompson said: “It is well past time the UK’s gambling laws were made fit for the digital age. Of particular concern is the rise in gambling in children under 16. One important step would be to close the loopholes that allow gambling-like tools to be excessively used in children’s video games. “Parents don’t care about the legal definitions of gambling – they want to know their children are safe when playing popular video games and that means tighter regulations to protect from online harms.

When describing the nature of loot boxes, Mr. Thompson points out that academic research has explained the link to problem gambling and that these video game companies are operating in a legal loophole that needs to be addressed.  The online source continues:

“The presence of loot boxes can encourage young people who are enjoying a video game to spend money they can’t afford in order to keep going, and academic research shows this is linked to problem gambling. It is a very short step between that and addictions to other forms of gambling games like slot machines.

“This is a loophole in the law that needs to be closed down so that tougher regulatory measures can be taken. The Vice Chair of EA Games described loot boxes as ethical and fun, but as a gamer myself I find they can be a costly distraction at best, and capable of encouraging online harm at worst. I find it highly unethical to profit from excessive spend from teenagers on games of chance.

“We cannot wait for the industry to take tougher action – the UK Government needs to tighten the laws and ensure everything possible is done to ensure children and young people are protected when online.”

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A Brief Look at Crime 11/30 – 12/06

Two Las Vegas Men Indicted for Alleged Multimillion-Dollar Sports Betting Scheme

Two men in Las Vegas have been indicted on federal charges in Nevada for allegedly running a multimillion-dollar sports betting scheme and defrauding more than 600 investors. A federal grand jury returned a 14-count indictment against John Frank Thomas III, 75, and Thomas Joseph Becker, 72, both of Las Vegas. Each is facing a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 13 counts of wire fraud.

US Attorney Nicholas Trutanich of the District of Nevada alleges that the two men advertised their supposed sports betting expertise to potential investors and promised large returns. Thomas and Becker marketed the following entities: Sports Psychometrics, Vegas Basketball Club, Vegas Football Club, Einstein Sports Advisory, Quantum Sports Advisory, Wellington Sports Club, and Welscorp, Inc. According to the DOJ, Thomas and Becker touted their “special insights” and strategies to generate, on average, a net return of between $40-80 per $100 wagered through their investment vehicles. Instead, the feds allege, the two were simply operating a Ponzi scheme.

Covid-19: Match-Fixing, Money Laundering & The Criminal Threat To Sport

During the month of October, 2020, FIFA and sports integrity monitors like Sportsradar have warned of a significant rise in match-fixing, money laundering and suspicious gambling patterns due to “the negative economic impact of Covid-19, as corruption becomes more organized”. They are joined by gambling companies, sports associations, business analysts and specialists in sports crime—to warn that lock-down has brought endemic fraud to sports fixtures—both in developing countries, and in Western leagues. Tan You Chen, Sportradar’s senior manager has speculated that “Match-fixers could even hide in plain sight by controlling teams and players through sponsorship deals”—a statement seconded by Interpol’s European branch, Europol. Chen also warned that “By becoming sponsors, they are now able to bring up to 5 players of their own group to the team, which makes it easier to control. Many clubs are struggling financially, some on the verge of bankruptcy, and are in desperate need of funds.”

PokerStars founder sentenced and fined for directing illegal gambling business in US

Isai Scheinberg, founder of PokerStars, has been sentenced to time served and a $30,000 fine after he plead guilty to the charge of directing illegal gambling business in United States. Scheinberg, 73-yard-old Israeli, confessed to the federal crime charge which effectively ended a prosecution going on from the year 2011. This confession could have meant 12-18 months of prison sentence for Scheinberg but considering the fact that he surrendered before US authorities and the PokerStars took on the $304 million of Full Tilt Poker’s liability worked in his favour. Considering the above circumstances, he was awarded the time already served by him in the US prison. PokerStars was created and founded by Scheinberg in 2011 based on his skills in mathematics and software development. The site of PokerStars created by him became the biggest online poker websites of all times. It landed in trouble for being violative of Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act in 2006, where US authorities seized the domain names of the websites and indicted Scheinberg and others for violation of the law.

Man Indicted for Embezzling $380K from Federal Law Enforcement Union

A federal grand jury returned an indictment this week charging a Quantico man with wire fraud in connection with his scheme to embezzle over $380,000 from his former union, which represented federal law enforcement officers. According to allegations in the indictment, Arthur Penn, 64, served from 1999 through 2015 as the Chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Defense Protective Service Labor Committee Pentagon, a local union that represented officers of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. During his tenure, Penn allegedly routinely embezzled funds from the Union for his personal benefit, and spent the stolen funds on gambling, to pay for a personal trip to the Dominican Republic, and for his day-to-day living expenses. Penn sought to conceal and prevent the detection of his embezzlement by failing to make regular reports to Union members, by violating his obligation to file regular financial reports with the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, and by siphoning off most of the embezzled funds through cash transactions, thereby avoiding the creation of financial records that would have revealed the fraud.

Circus Circus Shooting Leads to Arrest of Juvenile for Attempted Murder

An unnamed youngster was arrested on multiple charges for Saturday night’s shooting at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino’s Metrodome which left four wounded on the Las Vegas Strip, police announced Monday. The alleged assailant is charged with attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm where person is endangered, and minor in possession of a firearm, the /Las Vegas Review-Journal/ said. The alleged shooter was apprehended Saturday night after he was located in a hotel room at Circus Circus. During a violent dispute at the Las Vegas Strip theme park, the “male juvenile … pulled out a handgun and fired at the victims,” according to police statements quoted by the Review-Journal.

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

Nationwide Smoking Ban in Casinos Pushed by Advocacy Group to Protect Public Against Covid-19

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent smoking ban proposals for casinos as a means to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  These efforts have been fairly localized, but the impact of such a policy is self-evident.  Covid-19 is widely spread through air particulates and exhaling smoke puts many particulates and germs in the air.  The extension of such a policy on a national level, could therefore have tremendous benefit in preventing the spread of the virus, especially in gambling venues that haven’t decreased the volume of gamblers in the facilities by a large about or those that force smokers to congregate in one area, thus drastically increasing the consolidation of germs in the air.  An advocacy group has taken note and is pushing the policy on a national level.  An online source explains: 

The largest advocacy group in the nation that seeks to ban smoking in casinos said Thursday operators should be denied any federal COVID-19 relief funds unless the gaming industry goes smoke-free. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights took that message to the American Gaming Association ahead of the Washington D.C. trade organization’s semi-annual board meeting, scheduled for Friday.

“We take issue with casinos potentially receiving such relief funding, (which) is necessitated by a pandemic involving respiratory issues, while still permitting an activity – indoor smoking – that promotes the spread of COVID-19,” Cynthia Hallett, CEO of the Berkley, California-based Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, wrote in the letter. She wrote that Miller should use his “leadership position to make the argument to your members about why smoke-free indoors is a smart policy.”

In their letter, they not only point out the clearly obvious hazards to allowing smoking indoors during a pandemic, but also the need for a strong enforcement measure, including holding back Covid-19 relief funding if facilities fail to protect the public though a smoking ban,  The online source continues: 

In her letter to Miller, Hallett wrote that “industry arguments against going smoke-free have grown stale and do not withstand scrutiny.” Casinos throughout the U.S. have reopened under various COVID-19 health and safety guidelines calling for cleaning and social distancing protocols. Most properties require everyone on the casino floor – employees and guests alike – to wear masks or facial coverings at all times, unless eating or drinking.

“Guests who wear a mask but are allowed to remove it while inside to smoke are blowing potentially hazardous droplets into shared air for fellow guests and gaming employees to breathe in, which increases the risk for transmission of COVID-19, amongst other health risks,” Hallett wrote. “No credible public health official would approve of this, but it’s standard operating procedure in most casinos.”

he said the letter was also shared with members of the Congressional Gaming Caucus and other congressional members who are leading COVID-19 relief negotiations. “We request that you only accept taxpayer dollars, which we agree are needed to sustain gaming jobs and business operations, if casino operators agree to adopt a smoke-free indoor policy that would help to keep employees and guests safe,” Hallett wrote.

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A Brief Look at Crime 11/23 – 11/29

Aria hotel-casino in Las Vegas receives $12K COVID-19 penalty from OSHA 

Aria hotel-casino in Las Vegas and Eureka Owl Club in Eureka each received penalties from the state for COVID-19 safety violations last week, according to the Division of Industrial Relations’ Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA. The citation to Aria Resort & Casino was issued after an investigation was initiated as a result of a complaint or referral filed with Nevada OSHA alleging workplace safety hazards. Nevada OSHA has issued a total of 177 notices of citation and penalty related to violations of required COVID-19 health and safety measures in effect since mid-March.

Criminals use Windows REvil ransomware to hit big casino supplier

Cyber criminals have used the Windows REvil ransomware to attack the Las Vegas-based Gaming Partners International Corporation, a manufacturer and supplier of casinos table game equipment. Its products include casino chips, table game layouts, playing cards, dice, gaming furniture, and accessories and it sells to casinos throughout the world.

A man who claimed to be a member of the REvil gang had said in an interview given to the YouTube channel RussianOSINT on 23 October that the group was getting ready to attack a major gaming development firm and an announcement would be made about it soon. He appears to have been referring to the attack on Gaming Partners International Corporation. The attackers claimed all servers and working computers at GPI had been compromised and the data encrypted. They said 540GB of data had been exfiltrated, including technical documents, financial documents and contracts with casinos in Las Vegas, Macao and Europe, adding that bank documents had also been stolen.

Woman dies in early morning shooting in Deadwood

Deadwood Police officers responded to a call of a shooting at The Buffalo Bodega Gaming Complex just after midnight Saturday. Upon arrival, officers discovered a female victim on the dance floor. Officers and medical personnel from the Lawrence County Ambulance Service began life-saving measures but they were unsuccessful. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim’s identity is not being released pending family notification. The ongoing investigation will be completed by the Deadwood Police Department with assistance from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.

IT worker, 42, jailed after stealing 27 laptops from hospital

An IT worker has been jailed for more than two years after admitting to stealing 27 laptops worth over £12,000 from a hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic to pay off his gambling debts Neil Murthick, 42, who was employed as an agency worker, would steal two or three laptops at a time from Darlington Memorial Hospital and sell them to fund his gambling addiction, Teesside Crown Court heard. He took the computers, which were meant to help NHS staff work from home, between December 31 until May 27. While his defence solicitor tried to get the thieving employee a suspended sentence, a judge warned the public would be ‘outraged,’ if Murthick received anything less than time in prison.

Federal Money Laundering Case Prompts PGCB to Fine Mount Airy Casino $90K 

The Mount Airy Casino Resort was fined $90,000, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PCGB) announced last week, for nearly 500 instances where employees exceeded the discretionary free slot play limit. The PGCB discovered that 10 casino employees awarded a total of $262,500 in unallowable free plays at the Poconos resort. That included one employee who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to launder money after she provided an unindicted co-conspirator with $140,000 in free slot play. Free slot play is a promotional offering most casinos use to reward customers for their business and engender return visits. But Pennsylvania requires casinos to submit a “comp matrix” to the PGCB for its approval. That matrix details what employees can offer free plays and the amount each employee can offer.

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

Regional Fox Sports Networks to be Rebranded and Potentially Push Online Sports Betting Right on the Television

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progression of legalized sports betting after the Supreme Court ruled sports betting doesn’t violate the wire act.  In multiple states, this has translated to typical sports betting experiences with online companies such as FanDuel and DraftKings or other sports bookies for betting directly on sports. These interactions have always been at arms length and required would-be gamblers to seek out such opportunities.  It would appear, however, that for most major sports markets, the experience is about to change and sports gambling will be thrust into consumers’ homes.  The NY Post reports:

Sinclair Broadcast Group and casino operator Bally’s Corp. are teaming up to bet big on sports gambling, The Post has learned. The two companies just signed a deal for Sinclair to rename its 21 sports networks Bally Sports, source said. Bally’s, which owns Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino, will pay Sinclair $85 million over a 10-year period for the naming rights, giving it exclusive access to fans of 42 major teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Detroit Tigers, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Kansas City Royals, sources said.

The goal, sources said, is for viewers to eventually be able to bet on games using a Bally’s online gaming tool directly from their TVs. Sinclair’s channels are currently named after Fox Sports because it bought them last year to help clear Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox.

Not only does Bally’s plan to offer online gambling, they are buying up other online gambling resources to drive additional traffic to those sites as well. The Post continues:

Separately, Bally’s is buying sports-betting software company Bet.Works for roughly $100 million and will attempt to drive traffic to its site through Sinclair, sources said.

The casino company, controlled by Soo Kim’s Standard General hedge fund, can launch the new online gaming tool in the states where sports betting is legal, including Nevada, Louisiana, Colorado and New Jersey, if it also has a physical casino there.

Bally’s, which recently changed its name from Twin River Worldwide Holdings, currently has casinos in 10 states, including Nevada, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, Colorado, New Jersey and Louisiana. MBL, the NBA and NHL still need to sign off on whether Bally’s can sponsor broadcasts to advertise their sports betting tools, sources said.

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A Brief Look at Crime 11/16 -11/22

Italy fines Google €100k for gambling ad ban violation

Italy’s gambling advertising ban has led the country’s telecom watchdog to slap a financial penalty on search engine giant Google. On Thursday, the Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AGCOM) announced that it had imposed a ‘pecuniary administrative sanction’ against Google Ireland Ltd for violating the gambling advertising prohibitions in Italy’s so-called Dignity Decree. The Decree, which was announced in mid-2018 and took effect the following January, prohibited nearly all forms of gambling advertising and sponsorship activity. The restriction was intended to counter Italy’s problem gambling rates but locally licensed operators claimed the changes would result in a marketing surge by operators not holding Italian licenses. The specifics of AGCOM’s Google animus relate to paid search ads for Sublimecasino.com, a French marketing affiliate. AGCOM’s announcement didn’t specify the size of Google’s penalty but French media reported that the fine was €100k. AGCOM said the fact that Sublimecasino’s Google presence was paid advertising meant that Google couldn’t hide behind claims that it was merely a conduit through which the site’s presence became known to Italian gamblers. Shortly after the Decree was announced, Google appeared to be taking all the right steps, informing gambling operators that as of July 16, 2018, “only state lotteries with deferred drawing will be allowed to run gambling advertisements in Italy.”

Atlantic City Casino Sting: Two Men, One Woman Indicted Over Sex Plot Involving 14-Year-Old Girl

Three suspects caught in an unnamed Atlantic City casino sex sting involving a 14-year-old girl were indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday. The inditement charges a man and woman with human trafficking. The charges also name a retired New Jersey corrections officer who arranged for the teen to meet him for sex at his home. His charges were unrelated to the casino sting. The pair accused of human trafficking could spend up to life in prison if convicted. All three defendants are from New Jersey. The indictments stem from a New Jersey State Police inquiry into personal ads last November. As part of the investigation, police responded to an online escort ad and arranged to meet the girl at the casino-hotel. The teen showed up as planned on Nov 27. She met an undercover officer and offered to have sex in exchange for money. The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the New Jersey State Police Casino Gaming Bureau and the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, with assistance from the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force. The indictments come a day after the local Casino Reinvestment Development Authority donated more than $230,000 to the Volunteers of America Delaware Valley to combat human trafficking in Atlantic City, the /Press of Atlantic City/ reported.

Former Kappa Alpha Psi exec is charged with embezzling $3M to feed a gambling habit

Federal authorities have charged a former executive of one of the nation’s largest Black fraternities with embezzling nearly $3 million — money they say he stole to support a gambling habit. He was fired in December 2018, after fraternity officials discovered the missing money and confronted him about his alleged theft. Anderson then confessed, according to court filings in the case, telling fraternity officials he was struggling with gambling and drinking addictions and had spent most of the funds at Harrah’s Casino. In an indictment filed Wednesday, prosecutors said Anderson began pilfering from the fraternity’s coffers in June 2012 through checks he either made out to himself or five other individuals whose signatures he forged while exchanging them for cash.

California Casino Files $38m Fraud, Money Laundering Lawsuit Against Former Execs 

Tribal owners of a California casino have filed a fraud and money laundering lawsuit in Sacramento federal court, claiming that two of its former senior employees skimmed over $1m for expenses and personal trips. The Sacramento Bee/ reported that the Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians – owners of Gold Country Casino Resort in Oroville – said that while actual losses are over $2.9m, it is also seeking more than $26m in punitive damages and over $8.8m in Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization damages. The complaint, filed on October 22, alleges former chief financial officer Deborah Howard and ex-tribal administrator Jesse Brown embezzled over $1m in a scheme involving a “secret credit card.” The suit also claims that the two laundered money from the tribal smoke shop to pay for trips to Las Vegas and Disneyland, including flights, concert tickets, and limousine rentals.

Police officer killed by cockfighting rooster’s blade while breaking up match

A police in the Philippines killed by a rooster’s blade while raiding a cockfight, an official reported Tuesday, according to a report. The rooster’s gaff, a sharp blade fixed to its leg for fighting, somehow cut through the officer’s femoral artery on his thigh, BBC News reported. The officer, identified as Lieutenant Christine Bolok, was pronounced dead at the hospital. Cockfighting is a popular sport in the Philippines, but it has been made temporarily illegal in an effort to contain the coronavirus. Three were arrested in connection with the cockfight and police are looking for three others. Seven roosters were confiscated in the raid, according to the BBC. Under normal circumstances, the sport, which is illegal in the United States because it’s considered animal cruelty, is allowed on Sundays and holidays in licensed cockpits in the Philippines.

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Spain Looking to Reclassify Loot Boxes as Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the ongoing crackdown of loot boxes in video games.  These loot boxes are essentially a slot machine mechanic, where the player buys boxes to open as they are trying to get game specific loot.  In some cases this loot has value and is sold, which is the typical gambling.  In other cases they can’t be sold, but the mechanics are designed to get children to chase the good loot or gear in a game and as such, they dump hundreds or thousands of dollars into them.  Psychologically, they act exactly like slot machines and cause the same addiction you see with gambling.  More and more jurisdictions are recognizing these gambling-eque loot boxes for the dangers they pose to children, and are looking to regulate them accordingly. Most recently, an example of regulation in the Netherlands saw a major court ruling against publisher EA for their Fifa soccer game as they classified loot boxes as gambling.  Now it appears Spain has joined them and other European governing bodies in the notion that loot boxes should be viewed as gambling and regulated as such.  SBC News reports:

Mikel Arana, Director-General of Spain’s DGOJ, has confirmed that the regulatory agency has advised the government to introduce changes to the ‘/Gaming Law/’ in order to reclassify ‘loot boxes as games of chance’. The DGOJ’s leader urged Congress to support the initiative yesterday, stating that the government will launch a public consultation before the end of the year, aiming for new regulations to come into force by the second half of 2021.

Furthermore, Arana supported the directive to Spain’s joint commission on the ‘*/Study of Addiction Behaviour//s/*’, whilst further advising the ‘*/Responsible Gaming Advisory Council/*’ to support its review in amending the current law to establish loot boxes as gambling components.

Mirroring European counterparts, the Spanish government aims to review its digital laws with regards to protecting minors by “limiting compulsive and impulsive transactions’. The DGOJ is reportedly seeking guarantees that loot box laws and gaming protections will be included in the next phase of federal gambling reforms sanctioned by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

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A Brief Look at Crime 11/09 – 11/15

‘Conman’ stockbroker jailed for defrauding clients 

A stockbroker who funded a jet-set lifestyle by stealing his clients’ money has been jailed for six years. James Bufton, 26, stole more than £250,000 from eight victims – including a dying man, close friends and his own family – and spent it on his gambling addiction, hotel stays and helicopter flights to the Cheltenham races. When they demanded their money back and he started receiving threats, Bufton attempted to defraud HM Revenue & Customs of almost £1.3 million to meet his spiralling debts. Newport Crown Court heard that Bufton, who ran two finance companies, sweet-talked his victims with promises of high returns if they invested in non-existent stocks and shares. Timothy Evans, prosecuting, said that when the financial returns failed to materialise, Bufton would “rob Peter to pay Paul”. He spun them a web of lies, including claiming he had a brain tumour. Passing sentence, Judge Daniel Williams told Bufton: “You certainly sought to portray yourself as a successful and trustworthy investor with a lifestyle to match your glittering success. “You consumed much of it on conspicuous displays of wealth and gambled much of it away too.

Former union head accused of embezzling military labor union’s funds for online gambling

The former head of the New England chapter of the United States Army mechanics union was indicted earlier this week over claims he embezzled nearly $39,000 in funds from the organization and used the money to cover gambling costs, authorities said. Oldham, who is from Whitman, Massachusetts, was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday and arrested on charges of wire fraud, knowingly making false statements and filing false tax returns, according to authorities. The union is comprised of military and civilian mechanics employed by the U.S. Army, and the New England chapter’s local office is in Taunton. After his predecessor retired, Oldham gained sole control of the union account, and that is when the alleged wire fraud scheme started, prosecutors said.

$7M Sports Betting Software Scheme Leads to Likely Prison Sentence for Alleged Utah Fraudster 

A Utah man has pleaded guilty to taking part in an allegedly fraudulent multi-million-dollar athletic wagering software plot via a business identified as Sindakit Software LLC. He now faces a 10-year sentence in prison. Christopher D. Hales, age 39, of Lehi, entered the plea last week in Utah federal court to wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy charges. The illicit plan led “investors” to lose at least $7 million, prosecutors revealed. The investors were promised their money would be turned into winning wagers by using the firm’s software. But the allegedly fraudulent enterprise did not have a proprietary sports betting software or even an algorithm, prosecutors said. Hales allegedly cooked up the plot with an unnamed co-conspirator in 2018 when Hales was in a halfway house for a sentence from an earlier fraud case, according to a statement from Utah US Attorney John W. Huber.

Coonan admits Crown ‘enabled’ money laundering at casino

Crown Resorts chairman Helen Coonan has conceded the casino giant facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne casino, but blamed it on “ineptitude” rather than the company deliberately “turning a blind eye” to criminals banking their dirty cash with the company. The comments made in evidence to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s probity inquiry into Crown on Tuesday came a day after the financial crimes watchdog, AUSTRAC, said it was formally Crown for potential breaches of anti-money laundering laws. During her second day of evidence at the inquiry, Ms Coonan was asked about Crown’s relationship with its largest high-roller “junket” tour partner, Suncity, which is run by the alleged former Macau triad member Alvin Chau. Suncity operated a private gaming room at Crown Melbourne up until late last year when the Macau-based junket shut it down following reports in /The Age/, /Sydney Morning Herald/ and 60 Minutes  about Mr Chau’s criminal links. That series of reports triggered the ILGA inquiry, which will recommend whether Crown should keep the licence for its new Sydney casino at Barangaroo.

Police Confiscate Guns in Crackdown on Las Vegas Strip Violence

Police are seizing guns and arresting dozens of people while attempting to stem violent crime on the Las Vegas Strip. Last Friday and Saturday, authorities confiscated 10 illegal firearms and seized nearly $30,000 in cash during the effort, according to /KLAS-TV/. Authorities also made 110 arrests last weekend as part of the crackdown. Of that total, 38 were felony arrests. Police made nearly 600 “proactive stops” during this period. Most were pedestrian stops. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Nevada Highway Patrol are working together in what police call Operation Persistent Pressure to quell a surge in violence along the resort corridor. The increase in violence has left several people wounded in gunfire at or near major resorts on the Strip. Sheriff Joe Lombardo conceded this violence could hurt tourism if ignored. However, he stressed his department is devoting resources to stop the violence.

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Military Veterans Face Double the Risk of Problem Gambling over the Civilian Population

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various efforts to deal with gambling issues in the military.  These issues don’t simply exist while active duty, but they can often be seen impacting those long after they separate.  As we focus on Veteran’s Day, it’s important to realize the range of issues they deal with extend beyond their civilian counterparts.  There are many factors to consider, and one online source helps break the gambling issues down:

The 11th month, November, on the 11^th   day is dedicated to commemorating the men and women who have served in the U.S. military. As a country, we strive to honor and protect these individuals after returning to civilian life. While there are many mental health and addiction resources available throughout the nation, one issue usually remains hidden — problem gambling.

It’s a problem any time gambling causes financial, vocational, mental or interpersonal problems in one’s life, and it’s an issue that affects roughly two million Americans. However, Veterans have elevated rates of problem gambling — at least twice the rate as the general adult population (Westermeyer et al., 2013). Additionally, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that as many as 56,000 active duty members of the Armed Forces meet the criteria for gambling disorder.

Problem gambling is often viewed as inconsequential and limited to financial impacts among its victims. The sad reality, however, is that its impact is far reaching and can often times be deadly.  The source explains:

Compared to the national population, problem gambling may not seem like a priority. However, problem gambling can impact up to 55 percent of the population. It is estimated that each individual struggling with problem gambling can impact up to 10 additional people.

On top of that, problem gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions. “About 50 percent of those with disordered gambling have had suicidal thoughts. Over 17 percent of these individuals have attempted suicide,” (Moghaddam et al., 2015).

Problem gambling is also extremely underreported_ and low screening rates, especially in the military, remain a barrier. Some initial screening tools that are available include the “Lie Bet” and the “Brief Biosocial Gambling Screen.”  which provide basic questions on gambling habits.

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A Brief Look at Crime 11/02 – 11/08

Locals concerned over recent Las Vegas Strip crime, as aggravated assaults climb

The recent streak of violence on the Las Vegas Strip continued early Friday morning, with another fight leading to another shooting. This shooting happened in the MGM Grand on the casino floor near elevators, nobody was hurt. This comes after a fight on a bus led to a stabbing outside the Paris Hotel and Casino on Wednesday, after a fight led to a shooting outside the Flamingo on Sunday, and several more incidents over the past month and a half. “There’s too much violence going on down there, and I just don’t feel safe,” local Janet Kidd said. She doesn’t plan on spending any time on the Strip any time soon. Another local, Sheila Herckis, had to go to the Strip for an errand on Friday morning. She feels the same way. “There’s too much crime here in the past couple of months,” she said. “Before the COVID I would go on the Strip, kill a couple of hours. Not now. I’m home at 4:00. I just have to do an errand here.”

Feds charge suburban man, 66, with running illegal sports gambling business

Federal prosecutors have charged a 66-year-old Elmwood Park man with running an illegal sports bookmaking business in Chicago and two near-west suburbs. Gregory Emmet Paloian allegedly ran the gambling business from 2015 to 2019 in Chicago, Elmwood Park and Melrose Park, according to a two-page charging document filed Friday in Chicago. Federal authorities want Paloian to forfeit a 2017 Audi and more than $274,000. Paloian, who is charged with one count of conducting an illegal gambling business, is due for an arraignment Wednesday. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

Gunman shoots four men, one fatally, inside Brooklyn gambling den 

A gunman opened fire inside a backroom gambling den in Brooklyn, shooting four men — one fatally, police said Thursday. Medics rushed one victim, a man in his 30s shot in the chest, to Brookdale University Hospital, where he died, authorities said. Cops were working to determine his identity. A 44-year-old man blasted in the arm was taken to the same hospital in stable condition. A 31-year-old male shot in the leg and a 32-year-old man wounded in the shoulder were taken to Kings County Hospital in stable condition, cops said. The killer ran off and has not been caught. Police were trying to determine if the gunman was a robber or a disgruntled gambler, sources said. All of the victims have criminal records, a second source said. The man killed had recently been hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms, neighbors said. “He’s a sweet fellow,” said Michelle Smith, 51, who knew the victim by his street name, Pimp. “He just got released from the hospital for COVID

Chester County Judge Michael Cabry charged with using campaign money to feed gambling habit

A Chester County district judge is alleged to have used money from his campaign finance account to feed a six-figure gambling habit at various casinos in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, according to a criminal complaint filed against him by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. Magisterial District Judge Michael J. Cabry III, whose district court covers the Honey Brook area in the northwestern part of the county, was arrested Tuesday and charged with one felony count of theft by unlawful taking, a single count of perjury, a misdemeanor, and four violations of campaign finance laws. The complaint stated that in total, Cabry wagered more than $110,700 in 2017, although because of a large win at Delaware Park of more than $100,000, his total loss for the year was slightly over $9,000. Still, he complaint filed by Dormer alleges that bank records review in the case show Cabry’s finances were “severely depleted” during the time he was gamboling with his campaign money.

Gambling granny shoots husband dead then kills a stranger to steal her identity

On 23 March, 2018, a man was found dead under a blanket at the home he shared with his wife in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota. David Riess, 54, had been shot dead with a 22-calibre gun and his body was hidden in the bathroom. David had been missing for more than two weeks. His wife Lois had told David’s colleagues that he was busy preparing for a fishing trip and, after that, revealed he was feeling unwell. He lived with Lois at a house on the farm in Blooming Prairie. Their children had grown up and had kids of their own, making the couple both proud grandparents.

When officers turned up at the house, they found David’s dead body hidden in the bathroom with bullet wounds in his chest. He’d been covered with a blanket and his killer had jammed towels under the bathroom door to try to stop the smell of death escaping into the rest of the house. The family’s white Cadillac was missing and so was Lois. Had she been murdered, too? Investigators quickly discovered that Lois had forged cheques from David’s business account and had put $11,000 into her own name. They could see Lois’s gambling addiction was out of control and they concluded that the money was to plug her spiralling debt and to fund her habit. Suddenly Lois became the prime suspect for her husband’s brutal murder.

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