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October 16, 2000 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-10-16

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10A The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 16. 2000
NATnION/WORLD
Rise in felony cases ma b ine to gam ling

BELLAIRE (AP) - Felony criminal
cases are on the rise in northern areas of
lower Michigan, and some judges, prosecu-
tors and others are blaming much of the
increase on compulsive gambling.
Circuit Judge Philip Rodgers presides
over the 13th Circuit, which includes Grand
Traverse, Antrim and Leelanau counties,
and says he has seen felony cases spike.
In 1998, there were under 600 defendants
before the court.
In 1999, that number jumped to 800,
according to the court's recently released
annual statistics.
Several years of stiffer drunken driving
enforcement has created much of the
increase. But the report listed a sharp
increase in theft and embezzlement cases,
many arising out of problem gambling, the
Traverse City Record-Eagle reported yes-
terday.

A specific number of gambling-related
cases was not provided.
Antrim Prosecutor Charles Koop said the
gambling-related felonies are troubling
because many of the people aren't criminal-
ly-minded.
"For all outward appearances, they would
appear to be law-abiding members of soci-
ety," Koop said.
The prosecutor said he sees increasing
numbers of cases that involve gambling -
either embezzlement cases involving people
who apparently are only committing crimes
because of addiction or cases indirectly tied
to gambling.
"We have also seen other crimes related
to gambling which result from domestic
(disputes) where the argument arises out of
gambling debts," he said.
Recently in Bellaire, a 45-year-old
woman from South Boardman was convict-

ed of embezzling at least $57,500 from her
employer. She was charged with two
felonies and pleaded guilty to attempted
embezzlement.
Rodgers sentenced her to six months in
jail and ordered her to pay restitution. She
also was required to get mental health coun-
seling and attend Gamblers Anonymous
meetings.
Grand Traverse Prosecutor Dennis
LaBelle has never been ambiguous about
his opposition to gambling.
"Basically what we've done is we've
turned law-abiding citizens into criminals
and society has to pay that cost, the cost of
incarceration, the cost to the criminal jus-
tice system," LaBelle said.
The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and
Chippewa Indians has developed a program
for addicted gamblers, and soon may
include information about a toll-free garn-

bling addiction help line on all promotional
material from the casinos.
"We don't want the people with (gam-
bling) problems here; we don't need the
money," said Barbara Anderson, problem
gambling program director at Traverse Bay
Casino Resorts. "If you have a customer
who is upset and unhappy and losing every-
thing, and they go out to complain to the
world, that's bad publicity."
Anderson said that around 4 percent of
gamblers can become addicted, and the
casino is content with business from the
remaining 96 percent.
A December 1999 Michigan Department
of Community Health study found that 4.9
percent of Michigan adults were "lifetime"
compulsive gamblers.
Anderson said problem gambling never
became an issue for the tribe until 1996,
when a woman called to complain that she

was going broke and could not stop gam-
bling. She asked to be banned from the
casino for life.
The woman was voluntarily banned from
the casino and the tribe paid for counseling
for the woman.
Since then, the tribe has developed a poli-
cy for people who ask to be banned from>
the casino. The person can sign a form, and
from that point on will be removed by secu-
rity guards from the casino grounds.
Some believe the tribe should do more to
combat problem gambling.
Jim McBryde, special assistant for drug
policy for the Department of Community
Health, would like to see the casino put
large billboards around the gaming floor
announcing the state's help line.
"We have the treatment programs,
McBryde said. "We've challenged the tribal
casinos to help out more than they do."

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MUSKEGON (AP) - Getting
pulled over for speeding was just the
beginning of Savino Rodriguez's
problems.
The Muskegon man is due in court
tomorrow on charges of failing to
have a license for a pet dog that died
late last year. Rodriguez was stopped
last week in Whitehall for allegedly
doing 48 mph in a 25-mph zone. The
officer asked him to step into the
patrol car "and told me I had to be
handcuffed." Rodriguez said. "He
said there was a warrant for me."
Rodriguez said he looked at the com-
puter screen in the cruiser, and saw that
he was wanted for having no license for
Brandy, his cocker spaniel that died at
age 14. "I told (the officer) the whole
story, but he still took me in," Rodriguez
said. "They took me to the Muskegon
County Jail. They fingerprinted me.
They impounded my truck."
Rodriguez had to post a S1,000
bond to get out of jail and another
$115 to retrieve his vehicle.

Last week's arrest was part of a
sequence of events that began in late
1999, the time of year when
Muskegon County residents renew
licenses for their dogs.
Rodriguez said he and his wife decid-
ed to delay buying licenses for their four
dogs until after the new year, when the
youngest dog was to be neutered and its
license would cost less money.
In the meantime, Brandy died. The
family grieved, then went on with their
lives - including getting licenses for
their three remaining pets. When
Muskegon County Animal Control offi-
cials asked about the fourth dog,
Rodriguez told them it had died.
Later, Rodriguez received a letter
ordering him to appear in court for
having an unlicensed dog. He ignored
the letter, but the authorities did not.
"I thought no one would care that I
didn't have a license for a dead dog,"
Rodriguez said.
"He made an assumption - that
we wouldn't care the dog was dead -
and that was incorrect," said Al Pear-
son, director of the animal control
agency. "As far as we and the court
were concerned, the casewas still
alive- and sd was the dog."
Rodriguez could have kept his.
name out of the computerized records*
on which his arrest was based by-
immediately notifying Animal Con-
trol of his dog's death, Pearson said..
"He didn't clear it up with Animal'
Control and the court, so it was still;
on record," Pearson told The-
Muskegon Chronicle.

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