Tales of Woe
Urge to play slots spurred thefts
By Judy Harrison
BANGOR, Maine - The prosecutor called it elder abuse. The defense attorney said it was the result of an illness. Members of Gamblers Anonymous warned the judge to expect more cases just like it.
Greg Campbell, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, said it was the most serious case related to gambling at Hollywood Slots since the facility opened on Main Street three years ago.
Faria, a Portuguese citizen in the United States legally, admitted stealing $43,700 from three victims — two of whom are over the age of 80 — and her employer over a 15-month period in 2006 and 2007. She pleaded guilty on Sept. 2 to forgery and theft charges after being indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury in April. She also pleaded guilty for failing to appear in court in May.
Faria had no criminal record.
She faced up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000 and could have been ordered to pay restitution.
Faria took checks from three patients at The Country Villa, an assisted living facility on Kenduskeag Avenue, where she worked as a housekeeper. She forged them to get money for the slot machines. She also borrowed money from patients and her employer on the pretext that she needed it to return to Portugal to care for a sick brother.
“This is a classic case of elder abuse,” Campbell told the court. “These are reprehensible crimes against our most vulnerable citizens. This was a tremendous breach of trust in which she bilked senior citizens out of a substantial amount of their life savings.”
Defense attorney Kirk Bloomer of Bangor said that Faria’s crimes were a result of her addiction to gambling. He said that she had banned herself from Hollywood Slots before she was indicted, had sought treatment for the disease and regularly attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
“She didn’t appear in court as she should have,” Bloomer said, “but she returned from Portugal to deal with this, knowing she probably would be arrested in Boston. The easy thing to do would have been to stay in Portugal. It was the guilt, quite frankly, that made her come back. She couldn’t live with it.”
A man who identified himself only as Fred said he was a member of Faria’s Gamblers Anonymous group. He urged the judge to allow her to repay her victims as part of her recovery.
“I’ve never seen any one person help as many people [in recovery] as Lucy did,” he said, before making a prediction.
“On account of that big, wonderful building down by the river, you’re going to have a lot of people show up here,” he said. “Lucy is not going to be the only one.”
Even though she is married to a 95-year-old man who lives out of state, Faria is expected to be deported after completing her sentence, Campbell said.
The prosecutor said after the sentencing that Faria banned herself from Hollywood Slots and sought out Gamblers Anonymous the day after police interviewed her about the thefts.
In imposing the sentence, Superior Court Justice William Anderson did not require that she pay restitution, and he didn’t impose probation. He said that because of her impending deportation, it was highly unlikely she would be able to repay her victims and that the state has no ability to collect restitution from her once she leaves the country.
“Usually I hear that drugs or alcohol made me do it,” Anderson said. “I don’t really think that gambling is a huge excuse. I’m sentencing [Faria] to three years with none of it suspended. I’m also taking into consideration the fact that this was not a crime of violence, there’s limited space in our prisons and this was a property crime, although a very serious property crime.”
Violent crimes are dealt with more severely than thefts of property under Maine law.
Campbell recommended that Faria be sentenced to six years in prison due to the amount of money involved and the age of her victims. Bloomer urged that she be sentenced to two or three years in prison with all but the three months she’s been at the Penobscot County Jail suspended and two years of probation.
Faria has been held without bail since she returned from Portugal in July.
Hollywood Slots maintains a self-exclusion list for patrons who believe they have a gambling problem, and the state maintains a toll-free problem gambling hot line.
More Tales of Woe.......
A Casino Losing Streak Leads To Jail
Even at a time when we've become accustomed around here to gamblers who embezzle to feed their habits, the case of Richard C. Hannan, a Wallingford lawyer, stands out as a whopper.
Hannan, who this month pleaded no contest to stealing more than $150,000 from a 99-year-old client, one of more than a dozen embezzlements of which he is suspected, was an excellent customer at Mohegan Sun.
Casino officials told police that Hannan lost a total of $874,848 between June 2001 and June 2007 (you have to love how well they keep track) and, over the last year and a half, lost more than an average of $18,000 a month.
Over the 72-month period, he lost money every month except one. Imagine the comp points he earned.
Investigators have pieced together a long trail of alleged embezzlements by Hannan, according to affidavits filed in the case, hundreds of thousands of dollars, most taken from estates that Hannan handled in probate court.
Many of newest accusations against him surfaced, the affidavits say, after his arrest last July, when families came forward to say that they, too, suspected him from stealing because there was money missing from particular estates Hannan managed or no proper accounting of the assets.
But the first accusation against Hannan, the one that led to the first-degree larceny charge that landed him in court, came from a 99-year-old woman, a patient at a Wallingford nursing home.
Hannan had done some legal work for her in the past, including drawing up a will, and then, after she suffered a serious stroke in May 2006, secured power of attorney over her affairs. The document was signed by the elderly woman and Hannan's son, who was also his law partner, and witnessed by an employee of the nursing home.
The woman was at first not expected to recover, a niece later told police, but she improved, and by July 2006, just a few months after she signed over her affairs to Hannan, she had recovered enough to suspect something was wrong.
In fact, according to one of the affidavits in the case, the 99-year-old woman told her niece's husband she thought Hannan was a “crook” and she wanted her power of attorney back. The niece and her husband eventually went to the police.
Turns out Hannan may have been as unlucky in picking victims as he was at the casino.
In addition to entering a plea of no contest in Superior Court, Hannan has also resigned from the bar association and agreed to waive the right to apply for readmission.
He has spent the last year in jail, where he has been on a suicide watch, and never requested a reduction in his bail, which is set at $250,000.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 5.
The court record is unclear as to whether Hannan was a table game or slots player, although police did discover that, after cashing the elderly woman's $100,000 certificate of deposit and putting it into one of his law firm's accounts, he made frequent withdrawals from ATMs at Mohegan Sun.
One might hope that he was playing slot machines. That means the state would have gotten its 25 percent share of the $800,000 he lost, maybe enough, in fact, to cover the cost of his prosecution and incarceration.
Couple used stolen money for Atlantic City gambling spree
Mays Landing, N.J. - A couple has admitted that they went on a million-dollar Atlantic City gambling spree with money the woman had stolen from her employer.
New Jersey prosecutors say Jamine Alabre faces about six years in state prison, while boyfriend Mathurin Ambroise faces about three years.
Both pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of receiving stolen property.
The 28-year-old woman from Westbury, N.Y., admits she stole $1 million from her former employer, Ipsos, a Long Island marketing firm. Ambroise is 34 and lives in St. Albans, N.Y.
Prosecutors say the couple tried to launder the money from January to October 2005 by pumping much of it into Atlantic City slots, mainly high-limit machines at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Casino personnel notified state police. (Newsday),
Kids Left in Car While Mom Allegedly Plays the Slots
May 15, 2008 — While her two children were allegedly left alone in the car, police say Jennifer Lee was busy playing the slots.
Lee and Fouchoy Saephan are both facing felony charges of willful cruelty to children, after allegedly leaving their children in a car for about 45 minutes while they were inside a California casino -- where Lee allegedly spent part of the time gambling.
When they were discovered by Madera County sheriff's deputies, the children -- a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old -- "were crying, screaming, sweating profusely and their skin had turned reddish in color," sheriff's department spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.
Though there are no reliable statistics on how often gambling leads to the abuse or neglect of children, this is one of several recent cases of parents allegedly leaving their children unattended while they gambled.
A couple in New York was arrested earlier this month for allegedly leaving a 2-month-old in the car for 20 minutes while they watched the Kentucky Derby.
Police in major gambling cities like Las Vegas said they do not consider leaving children locked in cars at casinos to be a major problem -- in part due to recent zero-tolerance policies -- but Kids and Cars, an advocacy group, found at least 32 such cases between 1994 and 2003.
The total number is probably much higher. The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., based on an examination of Indiana Gaming Commission records, found 37 instances of children being left unattended while their caretakers were gambling in 1999 and 2000 alone.
The majority of injuries and deaths involving unattended children in and around cars happen quickly, with the exception of heat-related cases, said Jannett Fennell of Kids and Cars. Last year, 232 children died in nontraffic cases in and near vehicles.
Those deaths can lead to significant jail time for caretakers. Nanny Terri Lynn Revere was sentenced to 40 years in a Louisiana prison for leaving a child in a locked van while she played poker. Antonio Balta was given a 20-year prison sentence for leaving his 9-month-old daughter in the car while he went to the track.
Therapists and psychiatrists speculated that many gamblers who leave their children alone in the car probably have gambling addiction problems.
"They will go to any length, even if it means leaving their kids in the car, to be able to gamble," said Coleen Moore, a counselor at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery.
"What we see is that families have suffered financially, spiritually and emotionally as a result of a loved one engaging in gambling," she said.
In the case of Saephan and Lee, police say Lee told them she was looking for a relative who worked in the casino, but "then she sat down at a slot machine and started gambling," Stuart said.
Lee and Saephan could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Lee was not arrested.
The children were taken into state custody. Richard Rosenthal, chairman of psychiatry at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York, said there was little difference between gambling addictions and drug or alcohol addictions.
"It's compulsive behavior that they've lost control over," he said.
The 1999 National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report found that compulsive gamblers had higher rates of child abuse and neglect.
"The impact on [the] lives of those poor souls and their families is stunning," said Timothy Kelley, the commission's director.
"It's not that they're bad people. But they're engaged in an activity that is so powerful that they literally escaped from their own life. They don't think about their own life. They literally forgot that their child is out in the car dying," he said. (ABC News)
Waukesha, WI – The former treasurer for the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club of Wisconsin embezzled $108,000 raised by the organization to aid needy veterans and lost it gambling, according to an affidavit filed Monday in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
Sammie Ringer, a 56-year-old Navy veteran, was urged by the club president to repay the money by selling his home or his car, according to the affidavit filed by a Waukesha County Sheriff's Department detective. But Ringer said he already has two mortgages on his home and his car is worth only $50, according to the affidavit. "There's nothing there," Ringer told the president, the affidavit says.
The affidavit was used by detectives to obtain a subpoena for records at a Sussex bank where the club formerly held a checking account. The account was closed by the club shortly after officers learned of the theft in May, and by that time, it had a balance of just $123, the affidavit says.
An officer from the club contacted the Sheriff's Department Oct. 3 to report the theft, according to the affidavit. The former club president subsequently told detectives that on May 19, Ringer telephoned him and admitted embezzling money "the last couple years," according to the affidavit, because of a gambling problem.
Ringer, of Sussex, had served as treasurer from 1997 until the day he placed the call, the affidavit says.
Funds raised by the club typically came in cash and were handed over to Ringer for deposit, according to the affidavit. All of the money raised by the club is used to help "disabled and needy Vietnam Veterans," the affidavit says. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Pekin, IL – Facing thousands of dollars in gambling debt, a comptroller at East Peoria's Par-A-Dice riverboat casino overdosed on sleeping pills last month, a Tazewell County coroner's jury learned Thursday. Theresa J. Parker, 51, of Washington, was pronounced dead Aug. 7 at her residence. Her body was discovered after friends and family had not heard from her for several weeks, said Washington Police Sgt. Charles Woolley.
Parker, whom a family member describes as a "supportive sister and a fantastic daughter," lethally ingested a large amount of diphenhydramine, an over-the-counter sleeping pill, sometime around July 25 to July 29, an investigation revealed.
"In checking her mailbox, there was mail from July 29," Woolley said. "There were messages on an answering machine from July 28."
The jury ruled Parker's death a suicide. But before the ruling, Woolley detailed Parker's struggles with an apparent gambling addiction.
When police checked Parker's credit history, they found she was $104,953 in debt and had written checks to casinos outside of East Peoria. Her year-to-date losses from January 2003 totaled $77,900, Woolley said. Parker made an annual salary of $60,000, he added.
Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns the Par-A-Dice, was contacted by the Illinois Gaming Board regarding Parker's financial troubles earlier this year. Because of Parker's position with the company, her personal finances were subject to audits, Woolley said. Parker had been an employee for the East Peoria casino for 4 years and resigned April 4. (Peoria Journal Star)
Michigan City, IN – Not only do authorities contend Amy Cabanaw left her two children alone outside Blue Chip Casino, they also say she gambled away much of her parents’ life savings, about $60,000.
The 27-year-old Cabanaw was charged Thursday in LaPorte Superior Court 1 with three forgery counts.
For more than a year, the Michigan City woman allegedly made illegal withdrawals from her parents’ bank accounts by stealing personal checks and cashing them by forging her mother’s signature. She also did phone transfers of money from savings to checking, depleting, among other things, more than $20,000 her parents had inherited, according to police. Cabanaw also racked up cash advances on their credit cards to get money for gambling, according to courtroom testimony.
To cover up the scheme, Cabanaw grabbed her parents’ bank statements whenever they arrived in the mail, said police.
Her 56-year-old mother, Mary, unknowingly helped by never balancing her checkbook, "figuring there was enough in there to cover the bills," according to police reports. According to police, the couple had no idea they were being drained until last week when an ex-boyfriend of Cabanaw’s informed her sister that she stole from him and her parents.
Looking dejected, Cabanaw, seated beside her mother in the courtroom, sought help for a gambling addiction. "I spent all of her money on gambling and stupid stuff. I have two kids I got to raise and I don’t want them to grow up like me," she said.
Cabanaw has a felony child neglect charge still pending for allegedly leaving her children, ages 2 and 8 months, inside her car outside Blue Chip Casino in December. (Post-Tribune)
St. Joseph, MO – Vicki Norphy, 47, the former director of a home for the developmentally disabled who oversaw employees and handled the facility’s billing, admitted Monday to stealing more than $20,000 from the home.
According to court documents, Norphy gave a written statement admitting to the felony. In Buchanan County Circuit Court on Monday she said a lot of the money went to the casino. “I gambled quite a bit,” Norphy said. “I went down (to the St. Jo Frontier Casino) quite frequently during the day.”
Norphy told Judge Patrick Robb she deposited checks into a Unity Home bank account and then wrote out checks for cash, which she used for her personal benefit. In the statement she said she used the money to buy furniture, pay off her Jeep, pay for utilities and buy gifts for people
Laura Donaldson, assistant prosecuting attorney, said the amount stolen is more likely to be between $35,000 and $40,000.
Norphy will be sentenced on Oct. 24. She could be sentenced to seven years in prison without probation. (The News-Press)
Detroit, MI – A Detroit man says his addiction to gambling drove him to rob a bank in downtown Cleveland and stab a Greyhound bus station security guard while attempting to escape.
George Lind, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday (Aug. 7) in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to attempted murder, aggravated robbery and felonious assault, all on the morning of May 20. Lind could receive up to 38 years in prison when Judge Peggy Foley Jones sentences him Sept. 8.
Lind's lawyer, John Luskin, said his client was a mental and financial wreck when he arrived in Cleveland from a gambling binge on the roulette wheels at an Atlantic City casino May 19. Lind had lost thousands of dollars, couldn't afford a bus ticket all the way home and only wanted enough money to get back to Detroit, Luskin said.
"He had lost his life's savings," Luskin said after the hearing. "This was an act of desperation."
After spending the night in a shelter for the homeless, Lind donned a woman's wig, put a knife in his pocket and walked into the Charter One Bank at Superior Avenue and East 12th Street. He walked out with several hundred dollars in cash and dashed back to the bus station.
But before buying a ticket, Lind ducked into the women's bathroom. Screams from women in the bathroom brought security guard Anthony Simpson running. Lind stabbed Simpson and fled, but the guard's cries for assistance alerted another guard, Sir Lloyd Williams.
"Lind thought his life was over," Luskin said after the hearing. "He wanted to die."
Lind brandished the knife at Williams, who shot him in the leg. Writhing in pain on the ground, Lind stabbed himself several times in the stomach before he was subdued by a Cleveland State University police officer, Daniel Crispino.
A court psychiatrist confirmed that Lind suffered from a severe mental disease - gambling addiction - but that it was in remission on the day of the crimes. The psychiatrist said Lind is not insane and would have been able to assist Luskin in his defense had he chosen to stand trial.
In court yesterday, Lind turned to face four of his victims seated in the back row - the two security guards, the police officer and a bank teller, Jahaira Ortiz - and blurted out, "I'm sorry," before succumbing to tears. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Chicago, IL – When he stood before the court last November to admit his crimes, George T. Lycos of Elks Grove Village near Chicago was begging for mercy. Through his tears, Lycos blamed his criminal behavior on a 15-year gambling addiction that he said had “battered me and beaten me down and choked me to the point where I hurt my kids and the kids that I coached.”
As a commissioner of his son’s baseball league, Lycos, 42, stole $77,000 from the league’s bank account. He also confessed to bilking 15 investors out of more than $800,000 by getting them to give him money for a phony furniture business. According to prosecutors, Lycos gambled away more than $1.3 million of stolen money at four state casinos.
But instead of getting the probation that he sought, Lycos was sentenced to eight years in prison. A key reason was because even after Lycos admitted his addiction and claimed he was getting treatment, he was spotted in a casino slot machine while he was free on bond, unable apparently to end his powerful addiction. A casino employee recognized him from news reports about the baseball theft, and urged him to sign up for a voluntary program that would ban him from the casino. But the casino worker said Lycos wasn’t interested. Lycos said he had 10 more days left before the sentencing and he wanted to enjoy himself.
“The court system was scammed, just like all his other victims,” said Cook County Judge John Scotillo.
Besides being sentenced, Lycos became the first known compulsive gambler to be added to the state's casino blacklist. He is now considered a person of "unsavory and notorious reputation" to be banned from state casinos--a distinction usually reserved for mobsters. (Chicago Sun Times)
Needham, MA – Richard Anzivino of Needham had a pretty good job and pretty good pay. For more than six years, he was the finance director of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union with 98,000 dues paying members, a job that earned him $90,000 a year. He appeared to live modestly, commuted to work on public transportation and got good performance reviews from his superiors. But that wasn’t enough to keep him out of trouble at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut.
Last September, Anzivino was fired from his job after union officials were alerted to some suspicious transactions involving union funds. When prosecutors confronted him with the evidence, Anzivino admitted embezzling between $200,000 and $500,000 from the union to finance his gambling trips to Connecticut. But prosecutors say the real amount may be closer to $800,000. Over a six-year period starting in January 1996, Anzivino wrote himself 270 MTA checks, all of them for less than $5,000 so a second signature would not be needed. Last month, Anzivino pleaded innocent to seven counts of larceny and false entries in corporate books with intent to fraud. His case is pending. (Associated Press)
Detroit, MI – Delores Jones-Wiley, 34, had a fun night planned last month at the Greektown Casino in Detroit. Problem was, she also had a 1-year-old son and no childcare. But that didn't stop her night out of "family entertainment." According to Wayne County prosecutors, Jones-Wiley allegedly left her son James Jason Walker all alone in her locked 1991 GMC van that was parked on a street near the casino while she went and gambled. After being spotted by pedestrians, the boy was removed from the van by police and taken to the Detroit police child abuse unit. They later found Jones-Wiley at the slot machines inside Greektown Casino and charged her with second-degree child abuse. If convicted, she will face up to four years in prison. (WDIV-TV Detroit)
Rochester, NY – William Hovan, a 60-year-old bus driver from Trumbull, Conn., thought he was doing a good deed last June when he drove members of two church groups to Niagara Falls for a weekend meeting. The two congregations from low-income, working class families in Waterbury, Conn., were meeting with a third church group to help raise money for summer youth programs. But Hovan had a problem. A gambling problem. Over the weekend while the church members were meeting, Hovan went to a nearby casino and gambled. And not much else. Over two days, Hovan got just a few hours sleep while he tried his luck in the casino.
On the trip back, just outside of Rochester, Hovan fell asleep at the wheel. The bus left the highway, crossed an entrance ramp and careened through a guardrail and down a 75-foot embankment. The crash left five people dead, 46 injured, and countless family members devastated.
Last week, Hovan was sentenced to a minimum three years in prison and a maximum of 10 years for manslaughter, assault, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. Family members thought the sentence was too lenient. Under state law, people convicted of multiple deaths resulting from a single act are sentenced to concurrent prison terms. If Hovan’s sentences had been consecutive, they would have totaled 20-25 years. One man who was on the bus – and whose 15-year-old niece died in the crash – told the sentencing hearing that Hovan had “gambled with our lives.” (New York Times, Associated Press)
Albuquerque, NM – The mystery began just three weeks ago, May 2. Karen Yontz, 50, a respected criminal investigator with the New Mexico attorney general’s office drove her state-owned car to the New Mexico Bank and Trust wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap, pulled out a gun and demanded money from a teller. She fled, but police were soon tailing her getaway car. Once cornered in the parking lot of a burger joint, Yontz stayed in her car holding her service revolver, several times putting the gun to her head. As police moved in and urged her to drop the weapon, Yontz shouted, “You’re going to have to shoot me.” When she pointed the gun toward them, the police did just that, killing her instantly with shots to her head and upper torso.
Yontz left behind a husband and an 18-year-old stepdaughter – and a string of questions: what made a successful career law enforcement officer so desperate as to rob a bank and commit what was in effect an elaborate suicide? The answer came a few days later from friends and family members: Yontz was a troubled woman who developed a severe gambling habit, ran up heavy losses and turned to crime in a desperate attempt to cover her debts. Her husband said Yontz had lost more than $100,000 playing video poker at a nearby Indian casino. Investigators found a trail of fraudulently written checks, unpaid loans to a finance company, credit cards she had obtained using someone else’s name, even a bank robbery on April 25th – all because of her growing gambling addiction.
Said a co-worker: “This was someone who was in a lot of pain and this was the only way she knew to end everything.” (Associated Press)
Radcliff, KY – Sandra Kay Olson, a 61-year-old grandmother, was fired in November 2000 from her job as a bookkeeper with a Louisville printing company after $180,000 was discovered missing. While authorities investigated the case, Olson went to work for a company that makes lawn care equipment. She was indicted in August 2002 for 187 felony counts for the missing $180,000. Six months later, she was again indicted for embezzling $129,000 from the lawn care company. And during that investigation, authorities discovered she had stolen $21,000 from Ivy Tech State College in Indiana during the late 1980s and was trying to pay the money back. What happened to all the money? A family member told a judge during a bond hearing that all the money “that they know of was given to Caesar’s,” a riverboat casino in Indiana. Records from the casino show she spent tens of thousands of dollars on slot machines. “Gambling is just a driving force behind embezzlements now,” said Allan Cobb, an assistant Jefferson County commonwealth's attorney A disproportionate number of cases, he said, “'have some link back to gambling.” If convicted, Olson faces a minimum 30-years in jail and a $1 million fine. (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Queens, NY – In 1989, Maria Villa, a bookkeeper for a Long Island elevator company, was convicted of embezzling $100,000 from her employer. Inexplicably, the company agreed to rehire her after her conviction. Last February, Villa, 49, was again charged with embezzlement. This time she was accused of stealing more than $2.3 million – anywhere from $2000 to $23,000 a week for several years – and losing it all on weekend trips to Atlantic City. Family members say the casinos, where Villa lost more than $20,000 at the card tables and slot machines during each visit, put her up in suites and chauffeured her around in limos. She was what the casinos call “a whale,” a high roller who was given exclusive privileges because of the huge amount of money she wagered and lost – a low-rent Bill Bennett. The casinos, like her family, were oblivious to her growing addiction. “We thought she was just lucky,” says a niece. “But she has a gambling problem.” If convicted, she faces 25 years in prison. (New York Post)