Posts Tagged ‘Dumb Crook News’

Philadelphia cop caught cheating at blackjack

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

When the U.S. state of Pennsylvania legalized blackjack and other table games, it brought a lot of excitement to the area casinos. Profits have increased, as has attendance, but so has cheating. Blackjack is a lot easier to cheat on than slot machines. Since the blackjack games opened in the Pennsylvania casinos, there have been several arrests and cases of players caught cheating. The most recent case is a little worse than that, though.

This time it involves one of Philadelphia’s Finest. John Gallagher, 56, was allegedly caught cheating at blackjack during a game at Parx Casino. According to law enforcement officials, Gallagher was seen using what they called a “card-counting device” during the blackjack game. No arrest was made and Gallagher has not yet been charged with a crime.

However, Gallagher abruptly retired on Tuesday after 32 years of service in the Philadelphia Police Department. According to Lieutenant Frank Vanore, the State Police are investigating Gallagher for “committing a crime outside of Philadelphia.” In addition, Internal Affairs has begun an investigation of the incident.

Gallagher joined the Philadelphia Police Department in 1978 and, according to sources, was well-liked by his colleagues. Still, it seems that he made a big mistake. One of the great things about blackjack is that players can actually gain an advantage over the house if they keep track of the cards. If you count cards using only your mind you are not breaking any law (though the casinos don’t like it). However, using any external device – which can range from a rubber band to a notebook to electronic devices – is illegal and can land you in jail and placed on a blacklist that bans you from that casino and others.

School Financial Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Another Dumb Crook News segment. Folks, I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’m going to say it again. Blackjack and other gambling games should be done in your leisure time with money that you have to spend on leisure. In other words, if you don’t have enough disposable income to justify gambling, you shouldn’t do it. You don’t need a lot of money to play blackjack, but if you don’t have the money, don’t play. How do you know if you don’t have enough? Well, if you have to steal money to play, that is a good indication. Such is the case here.

Susan Thanh Litwin pleaded guilty to embezzling $279,000 from a technology school in Alexandria, Virginia. Litwin, 37, was the financial technician for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology when she withdrew $279,000 in student funds. Most of the money she spent playing blackjack at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Her attorney said that she had a gambling addiction, which may be true or just a convenient excuse. In either case, it doesn’t excuse stealing money from children to fund a gambling habit. Litwin resigned from her position with the school, having worked there for 18 years, once her embezzlement was discovered.

This morning, Litwin pleaded guilty to embezzlement and will be sentenced in July. Since the school she worked for receives federal funding, her embezzlement was treated as a federal crime. She faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines in addition to restitution. Taking steps to pay back the money, Litwin has relinquished ownership of a house in Florida and will forfeit her retirement savings, which amount to approximately $60,000.

Pleading for leniency in front of the judge, Litwin said “I love the kids. Working with them… it’s my passion.” She then added, “I just love playing blackjack more, so I decided to take money from the kids. Besides, I assumed that I’d win money, in which case I could have paid it back.” Okay, I made up that last quote.

Not much more needs to be said here, but it’s disturbing how many cases of embezzlement I’ve seen where the funds have been used as blackjack gambling money. Here’s hoping Ms. Litwin never sets foot in a casino again.

Blackjack Con Beats Casinos, Court

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I’ve written some Dumb Crook News in the past on this site, but this time it’s the court and the casinos who were dumb. The crook made out like, well, a bandit. I guess sometimes crime does pay.

A Turkish man named Seyit Ibrahim Yel (if that is his name) allegedly conned countless casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was arrested on other charges and then, despite warrants for his arrest, released on a technicality. The casinos have tried to sue him to get their money back, but unfortunately no one can find him.

Back in 2008, Yel went around to casinos across the nation posing as a wealthy business man named “Mustafa Seda.” Seda passed himself as a high roller, being flown into the casinos on private planes and staying in complementary suites, all courtesy of the casino. After all, casinos are more than happy to pay for things like that for the high rollers. The problem is, the real Seda might have been a high roller, but Yel wasn’t him.

Instead of bringing his own money to the casinos, Yel did what many high rollers do and took out markers, which are basically loans from the casino that allow you to play on their dime. If you win, you pay them back with your winning chips and if you lose, they deduct the amount of your marker from your bank account. However, there was no money in Yel’s account to cover the marker, making that loan the equivalent of knowingly writing a bad check. That would also be known as fraud.

Yel apparently is a good blackjack player, because he won some money at those casinos. Then, instead of paying back the marker amount, he either walked out with it or passed the winnings on to an accomplice.

Yel was later arrested for an unrelated scam involving a theft of $77,000 worth of gasoline. While awaiting his trial, authorities notified the Nassau County Judge that Yel was wanted for the casino scams and had warrants for his arrest in Nevada and New Jersey. However, because he went by the alias of Mustafa Seda and the casinos and authorities in those jurisdictions thought that was his real name, the warrants were under the name of Seda. Because those warrants were under a different name, the judge ruled that they were invalid and allowed bail for a mere $3,500.

Since Yel had conned Vegas casinos out of $420,000 in one week alone, coming up with the bail wasn’t much of a problem. Upon being released from jail, Yel decided against the whole remaining in the country and awaiting his trial thing. Instead, he hopped on a plane and flew to the United Arab Emirates. Why the UAE and not Turkey, you ask? That could be because Turkey has an extradition treaty with the United States, whereas the UAE does not.

Since then, the Bellagio attempted to sue Yel to recover $200,000 stolen from their casino. However, that lawsuit was thrown out by a judge who said he had not been properly served. Also, the lawsuit was again in the name of Seda (okay, that time it was the casino’s fault).

I don’t know how this will affect the real Mustafa Seda. Yel illegally snuck into the United States across the unsecured border with Canada and then assumed the identity of wealthy businessman Seda, who had returned to Turkey earlier.

So what have we learned? First, that just because someone acts like a high roller doesn’t mean they are one. We also learned that you should always keep an eye on someone you loan $200,000 to. Also, our legal system needs to apply more common sense, so that using an alias can’t get you off the hook. If not, then we learned that if you commit fraud, all you have to do to get away with it is commit it under someone else’s name.

NY Judges Denies Tzvetkoff Bail

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Australian national Daniel Tzvetkoff made news 2 weeks ago when he was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to operate and finance and illegal gambling business.

Yesterday, a New York judge denied Tzvetkoff bail, meaning that he will have to remain in jail until his trial, which is more than a year down the road. Last week, a Las Vegas judge ruled that he should be released on bail because a U.S. citizen in his case would have. The prosecution then appealed to the New York District Court, where he is facing charges of bank fraud and money laundering. There, Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Tzvetkoff is a flight risk, due to his foreign status and access to over $100 million dollars, and denied bail.

Tzvetkoff was co-founder of online payment processor IntaBill. He allegedly moved money from American online gamblers’ bank accounts to the accounts of offshore shell companies. He then moved the funds from the shell companies to online casinos. Tzvetkoff’s type of money laundering is called an Automated Clearing House system and he used it to funnel millions of dollars between the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands.

In 2009, online casinos stopped doing business with Tzvetkoff due to allegations that he had stolen $100 million from them. Two weeks ago, Tzvetkoff attended a conference in Las Vegas where many representatives from those online casinos were present. It is believed that one of those people alerted security, which then resulted in an FBI arrest.

If convicted of all of the carges, Tzvetkoff would face up to 24 years in prison. In addition, it is estimated that he could have to wait 18 to 24 months before his trial begins. He will be locked up in jail that whole time.

Bank Robber Arrested at Casino

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I’m thinking of starting a Dumb Crook News subsection of my blackjack blog. It seems like at least every month there is a new entry for it. Today the dumb (alleged) crook is Joseph Baer.

Baer was the suspected robber of three banks in Philadelphia. He had a previous bank robbery conviction and was known to have a compulsive gambling problem, so the FBI suspected that he was stealing the money and then heading straight over to casinos to use it.

They were right. Baer was caught while playing blackjack at the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A security guard at the casino recognized him and notified a state trooper, who held him until the FBI arrived to charge him with the federal crimes of bank robbery.

Back in 2004, Baer was convicted of two bank robberies and spent six years in prison. Earlier this year, he was released to a halfway house. Obviously, he wasn’t rehabilitated, because he promptly fled the halfway house and then immediately started robbing banks again.

Wait, do I have to say allegedly? I mean, he was caught on camera doing it! On April 13, the same day he had fled the halfway house, he showed up at a PNC Bank and was captured by surveillance cameras wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey and robbing the bank. That’s two crimes in one, right? If Baer had known about the surveillance cameras, which he should have learned about in court in 2004, I imagine he would have covered his face or at least not been seen wearing a McNabb jersey. That’s just embarrassing.

A few days later, security footage shows Baer robbing a TruMark Financial Credit Union while wearing a John Lennon T-shirt. Well, at least this time he wore something cool. So it seems that he learned his lesson and figured that if he’s going to be seen robbing banks, at least he should look cool while doing it.

Or not. A few days later he was again caught on surveillance video robbing a Citizens Bank, this time wearing an Iron Man shirt. Okay, so this guy’s an idiot and a nerd. I get it.

Baer will face charges for three bank robberies and fleeing a halfway house, so this man should be behind bars for quite some time. Maybe this time while he’s in there he’ll think about the consequences of robbing banks. Because his game of choice is my game of choice, and probably the game of choice of my readers, I feel a need to say something about problem gambling. If you have a gambling problem, you should seek help. Gamblers Anonymous can help you, as can many other groups. You should always gamble responsibly and only wager money that you can afford to lose.

To help you out, here’s a little quiz. You know you have a gambling problem if:
a.    The FBI believes you’re a compulsive gambler
b.    You need to rob banks to pay for your gambling habit
c.    Even while on the run from the law you can’t resist hitting the blackjack tables
d.    All of the above

Girl Scout Leader Stole Money to Play Blackjack

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

When I was young, I was in the Cub Scouts. I never graduated to the Boy Scouts because I didn’t have fun as a Cub and didn’t feel that it was worth my time. That was mostly because my troop leader sucked. What makes a scout leader suck? Well, if you never schedule activities for us to do and on the rare occasion that you do schedule something, you cancel at the last minute, that would qualify. Stealing the cookie money to fund gambling would also fit the bill, I believe.

That is exactly what a Girl Scout troop leader in Minnesota is accused of doing. Joleen Hopkins of Mendota Heights, Minnesota allegedly stole $8,214.22 from her troop. After the girls went to all of the trouble of bothering and harassing every single person who walks in and out of Wal-Mart until they gave in and bought cookies, Hopkins is said to have taken the money for her own purposes.

Hopkins allegedly wrote herself checks from the troop’s bank account and used that money to play blackjack at a local casino, pay bills and buy sports equipment for her kids. So I guess she’s just a good ol’ soccer mom who needed a little extra money. No harm in that, right? So she stole from the Girl Scouts. No one likes them, anyway, right?

It turns out that the justice system doesn’t feel that way. Hopkins has been charged with six counts of theft, with three of them felonies. If convicted, Hopkins could receive up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. What’s worse, as a result of her actions, that particular Girl Scout troop broke up. Now who am I supposed to buy cookies from?

Just last week I reported on a restaurant manager stealing from his company to fund a night of blackjack. Hey, at least Hopkins didn’t offer to pay the scout troop back with blackjack winnings!

I think the moral of the story here is clear: Don’t give money to Girl Scouts because you’ll only be funding a degenerate gambler…Wait, I don’t think that’s it. The moral is if you have to steal from others to have enough money to play blackjack, you have no business gambling. Blackjack and other casino games are meant to be played with your extra or disposable income – income that you use for trivial things like entertainment. If you don’t happen to have any of that, you don’t need to be gambling!

Honestly, I don’t know how Hopkins even thought she would get away with this. You know that saying “it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby?” That saying is deceptive, because in reality, taking candy from a baby and getting away with it is very difficult. For one thing, the baby will cry. Then you have everyone staring at you and wondering why you made the baby cry. Anyway, the same goes for stealing Girl Scout cookie money. Did she expect the Girl Scout headquarters to just think, Gosh, I could’ve sworn that troop sold about $8000 worth of cookies. I guess not, though, because they didn’t turn in any money.

So maybe the moral of the story is this: Joleen Hopkins is an idiot. Allegedly.

Manager Steals from his Company to Play Blackjack

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

People sometimes ask me, “How do I know I have a gambling problem?” One clue would be if you steal from your employer to pay for your gambling habit. An Edinburgh, England man was charged with doing exactly that. Benjamin Metcalf, a 26-year-old restaurant manager, was caught embezzling from his company after a five-figure amount was found to be missing.

Metcalf was the managing director of Nando’s and according to the BBC, he admitted embezzling £10,220.72 between June 28 and August 1, 2009. Metcalf loved to hit the blackjack tables and embezzled that money to fund his gambling habit. But wait, folks, it gets worse than that.

After he was caught and admitted to the embezzlement, Metcalf came up with a plan. He offered to play blackjack at a local casino and use the winning money to repay it. Brilliant! Of course, if he needed to steal money from his employer to play blackjack in the first place, I don’t know how he could pay it back by playing blackjack. First of all, he probably doesn’t have enough money to get started and make some money (which is why he had to steal it). Also, making money at blackjack is far from guaranteed, even for the best players. If Metcalf needed to steal to have enough money to play blackjack, then I don’t see why he would be so confident that he could win £10,220.72 playing it.

For obvious reasons, Nando’s declined Metcalf’s generous offer and instead agreed to press charges. The authorities then arrested Metcalf and charged him with theft. A guilty plea was made en abstentia and Metcalf is currently awaiting sentencing.

Folks, this kind of goes along with my last post. Metcalf did a bad thing (stealing) but justified it by saying that he was going to turn it into more money at the blackjack table and pay it back to the restaurant, keeping the rest. If you find yourself stealing from your employer to pay for playing blackjack, you have a problem. Actually, if you find yourself stealing from anyone for any reason, you have a problem of some kind.