The Miccosukee Tribe of Florida launched a legal proceeding against its insurer Great American Insurance Company seeking to recoup $5.3 million, which was swindled in an elaborate embezzlement scheme at its Miccosukee Casino & Resort in Miami-Dade County. Four employees, three spouses and a girlfriend were convicted of theft, computer fraud, and money laundering.
Beginning of the Story
In 2015, an anonymous tipster alerted casino officials about the fraudulent scheme. He told them that the slot technicians who had to service the video gaming machines at the casino found a way to manipulate the devices and get false credit tickets in order to create “ghost credits.” The said vouchers showed that they had won money and the employees were exchanging cash for these credits. The swindle operated between January 2011 and May 2015 when the tribe received the tip.
As the casino officials could not establish how the scheme operated and the money was stolen, they summoned the Miccosukee Police Department, but the police were not able to determine exactly how the gaming machines at the casino have been manipulated.
Then the tribe asked the FBI for help and it launched an immediate investigation. The federal agency warned the casino officials not to discuss with anyone the case until it was concluded. Upon the FBI’s request, the tribe contracted an internal auditor, a specialist in the gambling industry, to perform an investigation.
In August 2017, the hired auditor issued a report, according to which many employees tampered with the gaming machines in the casino to gain “ghost credits” for four years and swindled a total of at least $5,283,638.
In July 2019, when the FBI’s investigation ended, a federal Grand Jury issued an indictment of 63 counts and charged eight individuals with participating in the fraudulent scheme.
Lester Lavin was identified as the mastermind of the scam. He started working at the casino in 2003 and in 2009, he was promoted to video supervisor. In 2011, he started conspiring with his own supervisor and two of the video technicians to thieve money from the casino.
In August 2020, Lavin and another one of the defendants were sentenced to 51 months imprisonment. Another two defendants received a sentence of 37 months in prison.
Claim Submitted But Denied
In August 2019, the tribe submitted its $5.3 million claim when it was no longer prohibited from discussing the matter with others. It also provided all necessary information and documentation to Great American Insurance Company and the latter acted as if it was going to pay the claim. However, in April 2021, “with no previous warning,” the insurer denied the $5.3 million, because, allegedly, the tribe did not manage to give timely notice of the loss, and the policies, which are supposed to cover the loss, were canceled.
Per Great American Insurance Company, the tribe did not inform the insurer about the loss when it was discovered in May 2015. The tribe responded that it had not been allowed to talk about the case due to the then ongoing investigations.
The insurer has not responded yet in court to the tribe’s lawsuit. Both parties were not available to comment on the case.