One of the leading casinos in California is suing two former employees for $38 million in damages after an alleged fraud and money laundering scheme was uncovered.
The tribal Gold Country Casino Resort in Oroville has filed the writ against Deborah Howard and Jesse Brown, who they claim ‘skimmed’ more than $1 million from company accounts to fund a lavish lifestyle of global travel.
The lawsuit names fraud and money laundering as the two alleged charges, with tribal chiefs of the belief that Howard and Brown joined forces to defraud the casino using a ‘secret’ credit card, which they were the only people in the casino with access to.
In explosive claims documented by The Sacramento Bee newspaper, Howard – the casino’s former chief financial officer – and Brown, a tribal administrator, allegedly used their ill-gotten gains to finance trips around America, including:
- $16,339 spent at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino
- $6,775 spent at the furniture shop Pottery Barn
- Nearly $5,000 on tickets and travel to see WrestleMania 2014
- More than $5,000 to watch UFC, Elton John and the Sacramento Kings (not all playing at the same time)
The writ also claims that the duo used their fraudulent credit card to pay for limousines, flights and premium accommodation for trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas, while other schemes netted them more than $1.5 million – including making more than $200,000 in cash withdrawals from an account designed to purchase Christmas gifts for the tribe’s young people.
The pair ‘….entered into a discreet personal relationship and used their resultant joint power to supervise both the finances and business affairs of the Tribe, to carry out a scheme centred around misappropriating tribal assets on a grand scale,’ according to the official documentation.
However, Brown has strenuously denied all of the allegations, telling The Sacramento Bee that the claims are ‘absolutely ridiculous’, and that a credit card handed to Brown was standard procedure for a tribal administrator. “All the expenses that were charged on the credit card were always approved by the council,” she continued.
The case continues….
The Hills Have Eyes
This is not the first high-profile case to beset a Californian casino in recent times.
In 2019, three former officials at the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning – two of whom were pensioners – pleaded guilty to defrauding the games house of nearly $5 million.
John Crosby, his 76-year-old mother Ines and their 64-year-old accomplice Leslie Lohse used the funds to finance luxury travel to the World Series baseball tournament and destinations such as Hawaii and Africa, gifts for loved ones and the purchase of rare and precious metals.
The trio failed to declare these earnings or file their tax returns, and they tried to cover up their theft by rewriting contracts and agreements to authorise their use of company funds.
The ruse was discovered when they were voted off the Tribal Council by members – a move which resulted in an armed stand-off at the casino, the destruction of casino computers and the unexplained ‘disappearance’ of a private jet owned by the tribe.
The federal investigator, Kareem Carter, said: “The defendants used the tribe’s accounts as their personal piggy banks. For at least five years, the defendants took more than $4.9 million of the tribe’s money and intentionally failed to declare it as income to the IRS. This resulted in a tax loss of over $1.6 million.”