WyBETT
                             Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
WyBETT   Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
 
 Thefts Feed A Casino Habit

Thefts Feed A Casino Habit
By LYN BIXBY
The Hartford Courant August 23, 2000
     An insidious new kind of crime is taking hold, radiating out across southern New England from the two Indian casinos in eastern Connecticut. It is 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 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 other problems in their lives, according to Christopher Armentano, who manages state-funded treatment programs for gamblers.
     "People have different rationalizations which permit them to take the money, but it's all to feed that desire to escape," he said. "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."
     A 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 the Foxwoods Resort Casino or the Mohegan Sun casino, authorities said.
     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 families. In the fall of 1998, two Massachusetts men, Thomas Aldred and Neal 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 ticket 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 payments…
     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 some time and money advertising," said Armentano, who coordinates the state programs for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.