A creative, albeit daring, Arizona couple devised an elaborate gambling scheme to take more than $25,000 from Casino Arizona. Mark Allen Lomayestewa, a casino employee, allegedly filed false player reports in his girlfriend’s name to rack up rewards points. Now, he and girlfriend Henrietta Wagner are facing federal charges for felony embezzlement and theft in U.S. District Court.
The 35-year-old had already worked at the casino for about five years when the scheme began in the fall of 2010. This is when Lomayestewa allegedly used his familiarity with casino operations to capitalize on its players-reward program whereby the casinos give players one point in exchange for every dollar they bet. The points can then be exchanged for gifts, machine play and cash.
As part of his official duties at the casino, Lomayestewa kept track of players’ betting averages at table games, including the amounts they wagered and the time they spent gambling. He then would file the player’s information into a database that would update the reward points for each player.
In September 2010, Lomayestewa began to prepare falsified player-rating cards in the name of Wagner, his onetime girlfriend. The monetary gains were incidental by casino standards, ranging from $200 to $970, according to court documents. In 50 instances from September 2010 to July 2011 detailed the indictment, the embezzlement added up to more than $20,000. The indictment lists the couple’s total haul at about $27,000, but does not account for when, or how, Wagner and Lomayestewa allegedly took the additional money from the casino. Prosecutors allege that the times and dates associated with the Wagner’s players cards were days when Lomayestewa worked the casino. Wagner, 33, was not at the casino on those days. The alleged scheme ended in July 2011, but Wagner and Lomayestewa were not indicted until last month where both pleaded not guilty. They are scheduled to go to trial in the spring.
In general, embezzlement is defined as the theft of assets by a person who’s been entrusted with those assets. Most commonly, it involves an employee stealing money from his employer, as is alleged in Lomayestewa’s case. While Wagner obviously wasn’t an employee of the casino, she allegedly received the stolen funds, which is a crime as well.
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