Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer discusses illegal gambling businesses under 18 U.S.C. Section 1955

Over at Jackson Jambalaya, Kingfish recently posted a series of stories regarding two Mississippi charitable bingo operations that appear to have been playing a bit fast-and-loose with their “charitable” proceeds.  The two charities involved are the Fine Arts Institute of Mississippi (FAIM) and the Union Center/Theo Volunteer Fire Department.  You can view Kingfish’s FAIM posts here, here and here.  The Union Center post is here.

Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman recently shut down both of these charities.  As with most charitable gaming cases, these organizations violated the law by funneling money to persons or entities other than the charities they were supposed to benefit.  In addition, these groups misled the Mississippi Gaming Commission by laundering funds to disguise their true use, and/or filed false official reports to mislead the Commission as to the recipient of the proceeds.

Many charitable bingo operators take the stance that gaming regulations are an inconsequential administrative matter.  The prevailing attitude is that cases like this are nothing more than a glorified, non-criminal traffic ticket.  Just pay the fine, reimburse the charity, and move on.  Nothing to see here. 

What these folks fail to realize is that the violation of “mere” administrative gaming regulations also violates federal criminal statutes of the felony type.  Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1955, it is a violation of federal law for any person to conduct an “illegal gambling business.”  And just what is an illegal gambling business?  According to Section 1955(b)(1), an “illegal gambling business” is a gambling business which

(i) is a violation of the law of a State or political subdivision in which it is conducted;

(ii) involves five or more persons who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct, or own all or part of such business; and

(iii) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or has a gross revenue of $2,000 in any single day.

It looks like both FAIM and Union Center meet each of these elements.

A violation of 18 U.S.C. 1955 carries a maximum sentence of five (5) years in federal prison.  Definitely not a glorified traffic ticket. 

And lest anyone think the Government won’t go after a charitable bingo operator under this statute, take a look at United States v. Shelton, 337 F.3d 529 (5th Cir. 2003).

Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley


4 responses to “Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer discusses illegal gambling businesses under 18 U.S.C. Section 1955

  1. Dear Sir,

    Why don’t you investigate how the Gaming Commission just broke the law by imposing fees on bingo vendors?

    I do not view the gaming regulations as trivial. However, they are vague and left to the interpretation of Rodney Smith who interprets them one way for one charity and another way for a different charity.

    The only mistake I have made is getting into the Bingo business at all. You “reporters” haven’t bothered to interview me and look at it from my perspective. What ever happened to objective journalism?

    • Mr. Murphy:

      I apologize for the delay in posting your comment and replying to same. First of the year is always hectic, and I’ve been a bit dilatory on the blogging front.

      First, I’m not a reporter. I’m a criminal defense lawyer. My purpose in reporting on stories such as this one is to educate my readers on matters involving criminal law. My hope is that folks who read these types of posts will learn something, and avoid conduct which they may not know constitutes a criminal offense. While I make my living defending persons accused of crimes, I consider it my duty as a criminal defense attorney to help people avoid breaking the law in the first place. These posts are designed to help people never need my services in the first place.

      Second, you are welcome to tell your side of the story on this blog whenever you wish. So long as you don’t publish anything defamatory (meaning false statements that will get you and me both sued), I will print your explanation verbatim as you submit it. Hell, I’ll even go one further: if you want me to interview you in person and publish the Q&A on this site, I will be happy to do so. Again, I’m not a reporter or journalist, and have no duty to be objective. However, fair is fair, and I do believe you have a point that you should be allowed to tell your side of the story. Let me know if you want to take me up on this offer.

  2. Thanks for the legal update but with the political power this things is carrying do you really believe the state will or is building a case against this Charity? So many people hands are dirty….

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