Last month we started a new series for legal thriller lovers! We’ll be discussing a new book each month and talking about a legal issue or crime that was presented in the book. This month’s selection is The Whistler by John Grisham.
The book starts with a judge being investigated by the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct for taking bribes derived from the skim from the nearby Indian Casino. The judge, secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land, is getting a cut and looking the other way. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now skimming each month from the casino cash.
The Whistle blower enters the scene in order to collect millions under a Florida statute that rewards whistle blowers, but as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly dangerous for all involved.
Skimming and Bribery are both major plot points in Grisham’s book. We’ll save bribery for another blog. Today, we’ll discuss skimming, which refers to the illegal transfer of funds from casinos to a third party without official documentation. Skimmed money is usually paid in cash, often to evade taxes (by skimming pre-tax profits) and sometimes to fund organized crime. The Justice Department usually prosecutes skimming and other casino related crimes.The most famous skimming case in recent history revolved around mob bosses Joseph Aiuppa of Chicago, Carl J. Civella of Kansas City, and Frank P. Balestrieri of Milwaukee.
The Mafia leaders used their influence to get teamsters' union pension fund loans that enabled them to become secret owners of Las Vegas casinos. Once in a position of ownership, they looted the casinos by removing winnings through skimming operations. Of course, they kept the money, purported to be around $1.6 million - a tidy sum at the time.
Most casino related offenses are classified as a B Felony punishable by prison or probation, and a fine. Second offenses usually involve mandatory incarceration and a possible larger fine. IRS violations are on a case by case basis, but are usually more punitive.