Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canadian Casino Dealer Using False-Shuffle Cheat Scam in Blackjack and Baccarat Faces Prison Time---IF He Doesn't Come Up With Restitution Cash


If Christopher Stone-Spyglass doesn't come up with a chunk of cash by mid-April, he may have to spend some time behind bars for helping more than six card players cheat the Gold Eagle Casino in 2008 and 2009.

At a hearing in provincial court Wednesday, Judge Violet Meekma told the former blackjack and poker dealer she's unlikely to give him a conditional sentence for his central role in the months long scam unless he makes a significant, upfront restitution payment to the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), which owns the casino.

Five of the six gamblers who were charged last year alongside Stone-Spyglass following lengthy investigations by SIGA and the RCMP have already pleaded guilty to theft or cheating at play. All of them paid restitution and avoided incarceration with conditional sentences or probation. One player is still before the courts.

Stone-Spyglass started giving unfair advantages to various players - not all of whom have been identified - within a few months after SIGA hired and trained him as a dealer in 2008, Crown prosecutor Mitch Piche told Meekma.

The dealer used several methods, such as falsely shuffling cards and dealing them in a set order so that "wins were virtually guaranteed," Piche said.

He also flashed cards at blackjack players, eliminating the element of chance to their benefit, and allowed them to withdraw money from the table after placing bets if the cards were not in their favour, court heard.

The players simply took advantage of Stone-Spyglass's activities, and are seen as less culpable than him, Piche said.

The only way the dealer personally profited was when he repeatedly passed $100 chips to a player by concealing them under $5 chips - a direct method of theft that cost the casino $6,000. Stone-Spyglass pocketed half of that money, but otherwise he "appears not to have been motivated by personal remuneration in any way," Piche said.

The casino lost about $20,000 as a result of the scheme, which lasted until January, 2009 and was caught on tape by surveillance cameras, he said.

Piche told Meekma the Crown takes no position on whether or not Stone-Spyglass should be incarcerated or receive a conditional sentence for stealing from his employer.

If he's sent to jail, a 12-month term would be appropriate, but if he's allowed to serve his time in the community it should be 18 months with a curfew, Piche argued, adding Stone-Spyglass should also be ordered to repay $12,600 in monthly instalments.

Defence lawyer Randy Kirkham said Stone-Spyglass supports a wife and three children. He has a steady employment record, but was recently laid off from a job and is now waiting to start work in Fort McMurray, Alberta, which leaves him temporarily cash-strapped, Kirkham said. He expects a sizable income tax refund this year and may also be able to get a loan for an upfront payment before he returns to court for Meekma's sentencing decision in April, court heard.

Kirkham noted his client cooperated fully with SIGA and RCMP investigators from the start of their investigations and gave them all the information they needed. "Personal and family issues" made Stone-Spyglass want to stop working as a dealer for the casino in the fall of 2008, and he sought career counselling from SIGA's human resources department, but was ordered to continue in the job, Kirkham said, telling Meekma the cheating activity was a "foolhardy way of trying to get himself terminated."

My take: The real danger here is that the desperate dealer might resort to more casino cheating scams to obtain the cash needed to avoid prison time in connection with this casino-cheat scam.