North Carolina Casino Connected to Money Laundering Scheme
The Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino in North Carolina has been connected to an attempted money laundering scheme involving over $350,000.
Money laundering is a big issue that certain business types face on a regular basis. Facilities like casinos can make perfect breeding grounds for money laundering activities. Because of this, casinos have certain measures in place to avoid such activity. But despite precautions, money laundering can and does take place. Just recently, the Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino in North Carolina was found to be part of an attempted money laundering scheme, with over $2 million seized by the alleged culprits.
A federal indictment involving the case was recently released, providing information on two suspects and a third man involved. The individuals went to the casino within the last year and came from South Carolina. These individuals are Derick Keane, Jeremy Brandon Latourneau and Roosevelt Hunt.
The three men met at the casino and exchanged a total of $200,000 written in checks for chips. They gambled for around two hours and then cashed out. They left with $198,750 in cash. In just three days, Latourneau and Keane were back, both trying to cash large checks worth $50,000 each.
This attempt raised a warning within casino employees considering they had just cashed large checks a few days earlier. After investigating the men, federal officials eventually discovered that around $359,000 was connected to a scam involving a Paycheck Protection Program loan. This type of loan is supposed to be for a business involving coronavirus relief efforts.
Reportedly, one of the men involved, Christopher J. Agard, was laundering the money through his business Wild Stylz Entertainment. He applied for the loan and received the funds from the federal government. The loan was obtained via fraudulent documentation.
Based on the evidence in the case, the scheme has led to over $750,000 in laundered funds, money that was obtained fraudulently. The remaining money that helped equal $2.1 million was found to be indirectly associated with the money laundering activities.
Late last week, seven individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Narcotics Investigation Kicked Off the Case
This case dates back three years, to 2017, when officials were investigating a drug case. Prosecutors were able to track a group of illegal drug dealers to Greenville, South Carolina involving heroin and meth. The United States Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force took part in the investigation and was able to find eight people involved with the organization. It was those individuals who were found to be involved with the money laundering side at the casino.
Employees of Harrah’s are taught how to deal with certain situations when working in the cashier cage. Their decision to refuse to chase the checks by the players involved in the recent charges was made based on company protocol. The casino has a program in place that is comprehensive and follows the Bank Secrecy Act as well as anti-money laundering protocols and guidelines.
The goal is to follow procedure to ensure that the casino is not being used for criminal activity, including money laundering. Just last year, the American Gaming Association provided new guidelines regarding money laundering and casino protocols. The rules and guidelines connected to money laundering are constantly changing as the technology and schemes of criminals change to try and use casinos as a spot to launder funds.
This case is a prime example as to how such protocols can help a casino avoid being connected to major crime activity. Even though the process passed muster, there is no doubt that Harrah’s will continue to review their protocols to ensure they continue to avoid such issues in the future.