Desperate Gamblers Victims of Online Gambling Business
Desperate Gamblers Victims of Online Gambling Business
new kind of crime is taking hold, radiating out across southern New England
from the two Indian casinos in eastern Connecticut.
embezzlement committed by desperate gamblers, usually compulsive gamblers,
who work in positions of trust. Their victims range from businesses to
government agencies to families that are swindled out of their savings.
The online gamblers steal to feed their addictions and then to recoup
their losses, often devising sophisticated schemes to cover their thefts
while deceiving themselves that they will repay the money. But they keep
losing and stealing and losing and stealing until, finally, they get caught.
For most of them, gambling is a way to escape their problems in
“People have different rationalizations which permit them
to take the money, but it’s all to feed the desire to escape,” . “It’s a
circular thing. So one of the things they are escaping from is the guilt
that they feel about having taken the money. It’s a crazy thing.”
sampling of criminal cases over the past two years shows that the amounts of
money can be staggering and that an increasing number of the gamblers are
women. In all these cases, the money was used to gamble at gambling and at
fraudolent online casinos
In May 1998, Edward Hutner of Rocky Hill
was sentenced to prison for embezzling $1 million from his employer, a CIGNA
subsidiary, by creating fictitious pension plan participants and moving the
money through brokerage firms.
A few days later, Norwalk investment
adviser Richard Scarso was sent to prison for stealing $1.4 million from 13
In the fall of 1998, two Massachusetts men, Thomas Aldred
and Neil J. Coiley, were sentenced to prison and home confinement for the
theft of nearly $2 million from the company where Aldred worked by creating
fictitious shipments of supplies.
Last year, April Corlies was
accused of embezzling more than $300,000 from the Cross Sound Ferry Co. in
New London by manipulating records of tickets sales. She is awaiting trial.
Early this year, Lynne M. Frank, who handled bar receipts at The
Bushnell, was charged with embezzling $91,000.
A few weeks ago, James
Coughlin of Waterford avoided prison in his home improvement scam by
agreeing to partially repay victims, who lost more than $200,000.
Two weeks ago, Helen “Pearl” Byrd, a state department of Social Services
worker, was accused of embezzling almost $200,000 through fraudulent welfare
This week state police are working on an investigation
expected to lead to the arrest of Yvonne Bell, who was Ledyard’s tax
collector until she resigned in June after money was discovered missing. An
audit completed recently put the figure at more than $300,000. Two years ago
former Sprague Tax Collector Mary L. Thomas repaid $105,000 she had stolen
from her town and was sentenced to probation.
gambling-related cases are never reported to the police. The company or
organization involved usually wants to avoid embarrassing publicity for
itself or for the employee, or both.
Rosemary has been involved in
some of those situations through her position as the director of the
state-funded Bettor Choice compulsive gambling treatment program in eastern
Over the past three years, she said, she has negotiated
five private deals with companies to keep embezzling gamblers from being
“When you’re crashing, or they’re hitting bottom, they come
into treatment,” she said. “When they know it is inevitable that they’re
going to get caught, then they come to me, and then accompany them to turn
They often avoid prosecution by agreeing to repay the
money they stole.
“If people honor their commitment and their plan,”
she said, “ usually nothing more happens.
In addition to serving as a
private intermediary, Poole said she has testified in court on behalf of 14
recovering gamblers who were prosecuted for stealing in the past three
The demand for treatment of compulsive gamblers has climbed
steadily since Foxwoods opened in 1992, followed in 1996 by Mohegan Sun. In
1993, state-funded treatment programs handled 50 clients; last year, the
figure was 425.
“We think the number would be much greater if we
spent more time and money advertising,” said Armentano, who coordinates the
sate programs for the department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
He said many gamblers with good jobs and decent insurance plans seek
private treatment from psychiatrists and psychologists.
Susan Legassee is familiar with some of them, and she said more funding
is needed for gambling treatment to meet the increasing demand. She works
for a human services consulting firm, ETP Inc. of East Hartford, as an
account manager overseeing employee assistance programs for more than a
In that position she also has encountered
gambling-related embezzlement cases that were not reported to the police.
“You don’t hear a lot about it because the companies don’t want to
publicize it.” She said. “They handle it internally if they possibly can.”
In one recent case, she said, a woman put about $10,000 in cash advances
on a company credit card to get money to gamble, but she was a valued
employee that the company did not want to lose.
The woman went into a
treatment program and agreed to pay back the money by having the money
deducted from her paychecks.
“Gambling is something is something
where we have seen an increase,” Legassee said. “I’ve been doing [employee
assistance] work for 18 years in Connecticut, and in all that time it is
interesting that gambling coming up as a problem has been in the last five
or six or seven years.”
Gamblers rarely admit initially to having a
“They call because their marriage is falling apart or they
have financial problems,” Legassee said. “And then we send them to see a
counselor who starts to pick at the gambling piece. And often it’s like,
‘Well gambling is not my problem. My problem is that my wife won’t get off
my back.’ But the root of it is related to gambling.”
She said the
powerful lure of gambling became evident to her when she found out that some
people go to the casinos wearing adult diapers so they won’t have to leave a
hot slot machine or table game.
One part of her job is making
presentations to employees of the companies she has as clients. The subjects
vary, and one covers gambling:
“I used to end my presentations by
saying, ‘I can’t diagnose whether you have a problem with gambling, but I’ll
tell you this: If you are ever going to the casino and you have on an adult
diaper, do me a favor, call the [employee assistance program] before you
leave because if you’re wearing adult diapers to the casino, you’ve got a
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