2004 police investigation into drug trafficking in the Ontario province of Canada had a sequel this week when the police revealed that suspects linked to the crime ring used local land casinos to launder money, playing frequently and depositing amounts of up to $9 000 into the slots.
Police investigator Joe Peel told the CBC: "They would go in, under the threshold of $10 000, play various machines and then, at some point, cash out, get the little stubs from the machines … and then ask for a cheque." Keeping the amounts below the notifiable $10 000 level was important so as not to attract the attention of casino staff, who are required to report transactions higher than this amount to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).
Peel said: "The process of laundering the money doesn't always rely on winning. It can be just playing it and then checking out. Actually getting a cheque from that institution," he said.
The CBC report reveals that police became suspicious of a casino laundering operation after a 2005 bail hearing for Lenard Ro, the man later convicted of leading the drug ring. His mother told the court that much of her family's cash came from casino winnings – more than $100 000 for one month alone – for which she produced receipts as proof, claiming to be "…a very successful gambler."
Peel told the CBC that he suspected the Ro organisation could have chanelled anywhere from $3 million to $5 million through casinos. However, in an e-mail to CBC News, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) said their transaction records show the amount of money issued by casino cheque to people linked to Ro's organisation is "far lower" than Peel's estimate. The OLG told the CBC that Ro's mother appeared to be a good customer and didn't fit the profile of a money launderer.
The police charged Ro's mother, brother and father with money laundering, but the charges were dropped against the three family members when Ro struck a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to masterminding a drug and money laundering operation.
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