Hernando County Detectives arrested a 42-year-old Sumter County, Florida woman Tuesday for various theft-related charges which fueled an alleged gambling book of more than $14 million at a Tampa casino over two years. She has been accused of draining six of her in-law’s accounts taking at least $513,535, leaving the elderly couple with nothing.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, the family of the elderly Brooksville couple knew something was wrong when a check to the dentist on the couple’s account bounced. Family members knew that there should be plenty of money to cover the check.
The family spoke with the bank and learned that the couple’s assets — including savings and checking accounts, CDs, annuities, life insurance and retirement funds — had been exhausted. They immediately notified the police.
A five month investigation revealed that the Bushnell woman’s husband had power of attorney over his parent’s finances, but his wife controlled the accounts. The husband supposedly had no clue that his wife deleted his parents’ accounts, transferred funds and used the money to gamble.
Police reports show that the woman spent more than $14 million over two years at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. Her winnings’ were around $13 million, leaving her with a deficit of more than $700,000.
She faces charges of exploitation of the elderly, organized scheme to defraud, forgery of checks and uttering forged checks. She was taken to the Hernando County Detention Center with bail set at $64,000.
Forging checks qualifies as bank fraud, a very serious federal and state charge where federal prosecutors often seek maximum penalties. Federal agencies usually conduct extensive investigations to gather evidence against someone for bank fraud, just like this case where investigators spent five months uncovering alleged fraudulent behavior. Forging checks occurs when someone signs a check owner’s name on the bottom of the check and endorses it to be cashed. Forgery can be punished by both federal and state laws, and even the smallest sum of money forged can be classified as a felony.
A conviction for bank fraud can include penalties of 30 years in state prison and fines up to $1,000,000. Check forgery has a definite outcome of fines and restitution, meaning all the money that was stolen must be paid back. If the person cannot pay the full amount back, courts can order the defendant’s assets to be seized and given to the victim. The United States Criminal Code has 45 statutes pertaining to fraud and forgery that the category of banks fraud falls under. Along with federal laws, there are state laws that can be applied to a conviction. A multiple court conviction will likely increase penalties.
If you have been arrested for fraudulent behavior anywhere in the state of Florida, contact the Florida White Collar Crime Lawyers at the Law Offices of Whittel & Melton, LLC online or call 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).