[UPDATE] Bingo Hall Owners Ordered to Reimburse Charities

 

 

 

UPDATED 11.17.2011 by Julie Montanaro

Court records show that former Tallahassee Bingo owners Josh and Larry Masino entered no contest pleas this morning to two gambling violations.

More serious charges of racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and fraud were dropped.

The men were sentenced to two years on probation, 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay restitution to 11 charities.

As part of the plea deal, the men agreed to never operate a bingo hall in Leon County again.

Prosecutor Martin Powell says he agreed to the deal because "our ultimate goal was to get them to pay the charities back and stop taking advantage of them," he said.

Powell says the Masinos were taking an illegal cut of the proceeds that should have gone to charities hosting bingo night fundraisers there.

The judge ordered more than $87,000 in restitution:

$5280 to the Suwannee River Area Council Boy Scouts of America

$5280 to the Boys and Girls Clubs

$5280 to Bond Community Health Center

$5280 to Big Bend Cares

$5280 to Catholic Charities of NW Florida

$5280 to the Center for Independent Living

$5280 to Renaisance Academies

$13,234 to the Order of the Eastern Star, Noble Lady Holmes

$13,234 to Visions of Manhood

$13,234 to Providence Community Development Corporation

$11,040 to the Tallahassee Lions Club

The Masinos were also ordered to pay more than $12,000 to the sheriff's office to cover its investigative costs.

Gregory Miller is representing the Masino's. He claims the charges all stemmed from a disagreement over who should pay for set up and clean up costs at the bingo business.

Miller says given the potential penalties his clients could have faced, he is glad this case has been settled.
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UPDATED 8.25.2010 3:50pm by Julie Montanaro

Two men arrested in a bingo hall raid were back in court today.

Leo Donnelly and Christopher Jones are accused of dozens of counts of violating Florida's bingo laws.

They - and another employee - face misdemeanor charges, while the owners of Tallahassee Bingo face felonies.

Deputies say the business skimmed tens of thousands of dollars from charities who hosted games there.

The judge scheduled another status hearing for next month.

No court dates have been set yet for the bingo hall owners, Josh and Larry Masino.

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UPDATED 3:35pm 8.4.2010 by Julie Montanaro

Larry Masino has now bonded out of the Leon County jail.

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UPDATED 2:40pm 8.4.2010 by Julie Montanaro

A judge has set bond at $50,000 for a father and son accused of running a less than legal bingo operation.

Larry and Josh Masino spent the night in jail and returned to court today to continue their bond hearing.

Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson needed proof that the bond money the men intended to post was not linked to their bingo business. Ashenafi Richardson ruled today that the bond money expected to be posted by Larry Masino's ex-wife was not suspect.

Bond was set at about 12:40 this afternoon. Court records show Josh Masino has already bonded out. Those same records indicate Larry Masino has not yet posted bond.

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Updated 6:20pm 8-3 by Jennifer Milton

Two Bingo Hall owners turned themselves in to deputies and made their first appearance in court Tuesday.

Larry and Josh Masino appeared before Judge Nina Richardson in courtroom 2D via live video feed from the Leon County Jail.

The state requested bond be set at 50 thousand dollars and made it clear that money used to pay for the bond must not have been from illegal activity.

The bond hearing was rescheduled for Wednesday so proper paperwork could be acquired.

Defense attorney Greg Miller is representing both of the Masinos.

They each face 312 counts of violating state bingo statutes, 11 counts of grand theft and one count of fraud.
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UPDATED 9:30am 8.3.2010 by Julie Montanaro

Bingo hall owners Larry and Josh Masino turned themselves in at the Leon County Jail this morning.

They each face 312 counts of violating state bingo statutes, 11 counts of grand theft and one count of fraud.

A bond hearing is set for 1pm today.

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UPDATED 8.2.2010 11am by Julie Montanaro

Both Christopher Jones and Michele Young turned themselves in Friday night to face charges that they violated state bingo laws.

Jones turned himself in at the Leon County Jail at about 8:30 Friday night and was released less than an hour later on $2000 bond. He faces 52 misdemeanor counts of violating bingo statutes.

Young turned herself in at 11:45 Friday night to face four counts of violating state bingo statutes. She posted $1000 bond and was released.

Three others, Leo Donnelly and owners Larry and Josh Masino have yet to turn themselves in.

Prosecutor Nate Prince says the Masino's have had every opportunity to listen to the concerns of law enforcement and bring their business into compliance with the law. "We are where we are," Prince said. "These are not minor violations."

"We are familiar with their position," Prince said, "but their business practices did not comport with standards."

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UPDATED 7.30.2010 1:20pm by Julie Montanaro

An attorney for the owners of Tallahassee Bingo calls Thursday's raid and the issuance of arrest warrants "an outrage."

David McGee represents the father and son team of Larry and Josh Macino.

"There are national standards for this," McGee said, "and Tallahassee Bingo is behaving consistently with these standards." McGee says each charity signs a contract in order to host a bingo night and that all payments were made pursuant to those written contracts.

McGee says the Leon County Sheriff's Office seized his clients' assets, not only in Tallahassee but at a similar bingo operation in Okaloosa County.

McGee says they were aware of this investigation months ago and took their concerns to the state attorney's office. He said they left with the understanding that they would be invited back to discuss the evidence before any charges would be filed. McGee said that did not happen.

McGee says there are several other bingo operations in Tallahassee that didn't like the competition from Tallahassee Bingo.

The Moose Lodge was one of the organizations that complained," said LCSO Spokeswoman Melinda McBride, but it was among many others.

McBride says the sheriff was invited to become an "honorary member" of the Moose Lodge soon after his election, but she says he has never attended any meetings. She denies that the affiliation had anything to do with this investigation.

"This was not a shakedown," McBride said. "This was a thorough investigation that's been going on for months."

The Leon County Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, released a list of the charities it considers "victims" in this case:

Ability First
Big Bend Cares
Big Bend Boys and Girls Club
Bond Community Health Center
Renaissance Center
Catholic Charities
Suwannee River Area Council Boy Scouts of America
Providence Community Development Group
Visions of Manhood
Order of the Eastern Star Noble Lady Holmes
Tallahassee Lions Club

LCSO stresses the charities are not suspected of doing anything wrong.
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Updated 3:18pm 7-29

LCSO Press Release:

On Thursday 07/29/10 at approximately 11:00am The Leon County Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Unit served a Search Warrant at Racetrack Bingo, located at 3030 S. Monroe St. in Tallahassee.

This warrant and the associated arrest warrants culminated an investigation that began in September of 2009.

Undercover investigation and interviews with both witnesses and suspects revealed Racetrack Bingo violated several sections of the Bingo Statute, F.S. 849.0931.

Two Fort Walton Beach businessmen started the company Racetrack Bingo in 2009 and modeled the organization on other operations they run elsewhere.

Larry and Josh Masino controlled the operation here in Tallahassee in order to profit personally.

The operation also committed theft from a number of local non-profit organizations.

The business solicited local non-profit organizations to sponsor bingo sessions at this location in name only.

Under Florida law, all profits from bingo operations are supposed to go to the non-profits who host the event.

Workers cannot be compensated for their time, the volunteers have to be bona fide members of the non-profit organization and the non-profit has to be a legitimate non-profit.

Several of the illegitimate non-profits involved were not eligible for bingo operations here and had full knowledge of this. Profits from the bingo operation were diverted to the benefit of the Masino’s.

At no time during this investigation were any of the local non-profits suspected of wrongdoing during these operations.

Consequently, there were 11 local registered non-profit organizations that were victims.

They collectively suffered a minimum loss of $87,000.

The investigation continues and additional charges may be forthcoming.
Arrest Warrants were obtained for the following people:

Larry Masino
DOB: 04/24/50
Charges: Organized Scheme to Defraud, Grand Theft (11 Counts), and Bingo Statute Violation (312 Counts)

Josh Masino
DOB: 01/16/76
Charges: Organized Scheme to Defraud, Grand Theft (11 Counts), and Bingo Statute Violation (312 Counts)

Leo Donnelly
DOB: 03/27/42
Charges: Bingo Statute Violation (49 Counts)

Christopher Jones
DOB: 07/05/58
Charges: Bingo Statute Violation (52 Counts)

Michele Young
DOB: 05/03/65
Charges: Bingo Statute Violation (4 Counts)
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Leon County Sheriff's deputies arrived at a Tallahassee bingo hall with a search warrant in hand this morning.

WCTV arrived at Racetrack Bingo near the corner of North Monroe Street and Paul Russell Road as work crews from the jail were removing tables, chairs and more from inside.

The head of LCSO's financial crimes unit has been investigating the hall for the past six months and says it will levy hundreds of charges against the bingo hall owners as well as three other people.

Sgt. Charlie Strickland says those running the bingo hall pocketed tens of thousands of dollars that should have gone into the coffers of local non-profits.

We will bring you more details as soon as they become available.


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