Gambling Theft a Sign of Addiction: Five Stories
America's legal system doesn't have a problem with people who take their own money to the casino for a bit of gambling fun. In fact, America's legal system is banking on the fact that many people will do just that. Casinos bring in revenue to states, and as the U.S. economy continues to struggle, states budgets are becoming more and more dependent on that revenue.
When people steal money from others to fuel their gambling habit, however, America's legal system reacts quite differently. The following stories illustrate how five American citizens stole money in order to gain a little cash at the casino.
Pennsylvania Lunch Ladies Pocket $94,000 to Fund Gambling Excursions
Stacy Shipley and Shirley Cook, two former cafeteria workers in the Charleroi school district of Pennsylvania, allegedly pocketed $94,000 of their school district's lunch money to fund their gambling excursions.
The lunch ladies have been accused of gambling with student money at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington, Pa. The women had been working for the Charleroi school district for over eight years when the crime was discovered during a routine budget review.
The district's superintendent, Dr. Brad Ferko, said it was initially believed that only $30,000 was missing from the budget. Upon further investigation, however, it was discovered that almost $100,000 was missing. Although released on bond for now, the women could soon be serving jail time for theft, criminal conspiracy, and forgery.
Washington Paralegal Cashes $235,000 in Law Firm Checks for Personal Gambling Use
Deborah Sheehan, a senior paralegal at a Tacoma, Washington law firm, has been accused of cashing almost $235,000 worth of checks that were intended for the law firm's clients. In April 2012, workers at Sheehan's bank became alarmed when she tried to deposit a check addressed to a client into her personal account. The bank alerted the law firm, resulting in a criminal investigation and Sheehan's arrest. Sheehan admitted that she forged her name on 89 checks from her workplace and cashed them for her personal gambling use.
Sheehan has also been accused of forging almost $13,000 worth of checks from the Home Owners' Association for which she was president in 2011 and 2012. She has expressed remorse for her crimes, saying she used gambling as a way to escape the stress she felt at work and at home. The former paralegal faces 27 theft and forgery charges, but is not yet in jail.
Illinois Priest Pilfers Almost $300,000 from Collection Plate to Support Gambling Habit
Rev. John Regan, a former priest at St. Walter Catholic Church in Illinois, has admitted to stealing almost $300,000 from the church. Regan opened an account at a local bank titled the "Church of St. Walter Special Needs Account" and regularly deposited church funds there, cleverly naming himself as the only person authorized to withdraw the cash.
The priest, who initially made a favorable impression on his parishioners, took the money to Harrah's in Joliet and Grand Victoria in Elgin for numerous gambling sprees. Regan, who was earning only $25,000 per year, will be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison this summer.
Michigan Man Allows ATM Error to Fund $1.5 Million Gambling Spree
Ronald Page, a retired GM worker and frequent gambler in Detroit and Las Vegas, was on the receiving end of a bank error which allowed him to withdraw unlimited amounts of cash from his Bank of America ATM account. Page, who typically kept only about$100 in his account, eventually got caught when his withdrawals soared to the $1.5 million mark. The U.S. Attorney's office recommended that Page serve 15 months in prison and indicated that he should repay Bank of America the full amount, in spite of the fact that it was the bank's error.
According to his defense attorney, Page has no history of criminal activity prior to the bank theft but does have a history of alcohol and drug addiction. He will serve the 15-month prison term recommended by the U.S. Attorney's office and will also repay the debt from his $2,000 per month pension.
New Jersey Financial Officer Steals over $10 Million From Hedge Fund for Sports Gambling
David Newmark, the ex-financial officer of a hedge fund in New Jersey, has been accused of stealing $10.4 million from his firm to support his sports gambling habit. The 39-year-old family man will serve 54 months in prison for crimes which include embezzlement, wire fraud, and tax evasion. Newmark's attorney begged a U.S. District Court judge for leniency, but the judge declined, saying Newmark needed to feel the sting of his crimes so as not to offend again. Newmark will serve 4 1/2 years in federal prison.
A Common Occurrence
These five stories represent just a small fraction of Americans who have stolen money from others in order to fund a gambling habit. While some people have the self control to gamble only what they can afford and then walk away, others are not so lucky.
Gambling can become an addiction just like overeating, alcoholism, and drug abuse (read more). When an addict becomes desperate for a high, or desperate for money to repay a debt, theft is often the natural choice. It is estimated that as much as 3 percent of the gambling population grapples with serious addiction.
Other Signs of Addiction
Not all gambling addicts turn to theft. Other symptoms may arise, including the neglect of family members, home, and health. People who steal money to fund a gambling habit often have no criminal history. They may project the image of a completely normal person. Compulsive gamblers, however, are at higher risk for suicide, attempted suicide, and other devastating emotional and legal problems.
People who break the law in order to maintain a gambling habit have a disease (read more). The disease cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Gamblers Anonymous is a good first step for those seeking help with a debilitating gambling problem.