Five Charged With Skimming $1 Million From Charity Bingo Games

By and large the game of bingo has a good reputation and is rarely connected with any sort of criminal activity. Online bingo has a similar reputation and criminality is extremely rare. Occasionally bingo makes the news and in Fort Wayne Indiana bingo has made headlines. Last week five people were charged with skimming about $1 million dollars from charity bingo games held at a local American Legion post. The attorney representing the post insists that the post’s leaders were unaware of the criminal activity.

Post Attorney Randy Fisher said that past board members had set up the illegal practices surrounding the games. The post gave cash payments to gaming managers and workers in violation of Indiana law. The gaming managers and workers should have been unpaid volunteers. Fisher told reporters that it was a “rogue operation” that few post members knew about. Fisher stated “The illegal acts occurred behind closed doors.” Post Commander Vernon Criswell, who is a Fort Wayne police detective, said he did not know about the illegal payments. Criswell has been post commander since November 2010 and has not been charged in the case.

The post’s finance officer, James Schultz has been charged along with four others; Lana Brooks who managed the bingo games, her husband and post trustee, Kenneth Brooks, Steven Bouse another bingo manager and John Gahan who has been the post’s finance officer off and on since 2006. The five defendants are from New Haven Indiana and are accused of taking money that was supposed to go to charity. Lana Brooks and Bouse have been charged with corrupt business influence, theft, professional gambling and unlawful charity gaming contracting. Kenneth Brooks and Schultz are charged with aiding theft and aiding unlawful charity gaming contracting. Gahan has been charged with aiding corrupt business influence, aiding theft, professional gambling and aiding unlawful charity gaming contracting. All five defendants have been released on their own recognizance.

Court documents showed that Schultz told investigators that he knew that Brooks and Bouse were paid to manage the post’s bingo games. Since the charges were filed there has been no gaming at the Legion post. The post lost a significant portion of its income but Fisher said that the post should be able to get by using revenues from party rentals and other sources. Fisher stated “They’ll be able to stay open at least for a while, so long as members continue to support it and go there and spend money.” Fisher said that given the charges is unsure if the post will host gaming events in the future.

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