Bingo Player Turns to Pot to Finance Bingo Habit

Most people think of bingo as a game played by older women and while that may be true in part today’s bingo players are younger and tech savvy. Although bingo does not generate the excitement of casino poker and blackjack millions around the world play bingo every week. The games are usually laid back affairs and are relatively quiet. Occasionally a bingo hall will get robbed but criminality is rare among bingo players.

This year there have been two cases of bingo addicts embezzling from their employers to feed their bingo addiction. One man stole over a million pounds before he was caught. In 2007 there was a news story about a bingo player who had found a unique way to fund her bingo games. Leticia Villareal-Garcia, 62, of Bisbee Arizona was caught with 214 pounds of cannabis in her trunk. When the police stopped the car driven by the grandmotherly player they smelled the strong odor of fresh cut marijuana and opened the trunk of the car. Police were acting on a tip from an informant.

Ms. Villareal-Garcia insisted that she had no idea the marijuana was in her car. At her trial Ms. Villareal-Garcia told the court that her son’s long lost had shown up unannounced and had borrowed her car for a short amount of time. Villareal-Garcia’s lawyer, Robert Zohlmann, told jurors that Garcia had been a “blind mule” and had been tricked by the godfather into carrying the pot. At the start of the trial the prosecutor based most of his case on circumstantial evidence such as the fact she was driving with her windows down in winter to mask the odor of cannabis.

A string of character witnesses for Ms. Villareal-Garcia. On cross examination the witnesses said that Villareal-Garcia played bingo every night. When Ms. Villareal-Garcia testified that her only income was her small bingo winnings and a $275 monthly welfare check the prosecutor believed he had a motive. Prosecutor Johnstun told the jury “The underlying issue is that she’s got a bingo problem,” he said, “which explains why an otherwise nice person might get sucked into something like this.” The jury found Villareal-Garcia guilty. The judge sentenced her to three years in prison and a $150,000 fine.

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