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Case Number: 19-ce-20435
Judge: Darrin P. Gayles
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami-Dade County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States District Attorney’s Office
Description: Miami, FL - The United States of America charged Lester Lavin age 44, and Anisleydi Vergel Hermida, age 31, with computer fraud and money laundering.
The government claimed that Lavin created a computer fraud scheme to steal over $5 million from Miccosukee Indian Gaming and then launder the stolen money.
Lavin worked for Miccosukee Indian Gaming, at its casino, for 12 years -- from 2003 to 2015. For the first six years, Lavin worked as a video technician at the casino, servicing the casino’s electronic gaming machines such as video slot machines. In 2009, Miccosukee Indian Gaming promoted Lavin to Video Supervisor. Two years into his new job, in 2011, Lavin began conspiring with his own supervisor, Michel Aleu, two of his video technicians, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, and Leonardo Betancourt, and others, to steal money from the casino. To accomplish their theft, Lavin and his co-conspirators tampered with the gaming machines’ computers, causing the machines to generate credit vouchers or tickets falsely showing that they had won money. Other members of the conspiracy, who did not work at the casino, would then exchange the credit vouchers for cash at ATMs located on the casino floor and at floor cashiers. Lavin and his co-conspirators perpetrated their fraud and embezzlement scheme for more than four years. From January 2011 through May 2015, they stole about $5.3 million from the Miccosukee Indian Gaming casino.
Among other things, Lavin used his share of the stolen money to purchase a condominium in Miami Beach, to pay down various debts, including mortgages on properties in Miami-Dade County, and to purchase Florida Prepaid College Plans for two of his children. Lavin laundered at least $654,150 of fraud proceeds, on his own, and with help from others, including his co-defendant, Vergel Hermida. Lavin and Vergel Hermida lived together in the Miami Beach condominium that Lavin purchased with fraud money.
On December 19, 2019, Lavin pleaded guilty to three counts in the indictment charging him with conspiracy to steal funds in excess of $1,000 from Miccosukee Indian Gaming, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. On January 9, 2020, Vergel Hermida pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. As part of their pleas, Lavin and Vergel Hermida agreed to forfeit Lavin’s Miami Beach condominium, another residential property in Miami, and the Florida Prepaid College Plans.
Six other defendants have pleaded guilty, and are awaiting sentencing later this month and in August 2020. Michel Aleu, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, and Leonardo Betancourt, all former employees and licensees of Miccosukee Indian Gaming, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal funds in excess of $1,000 from Miccosukee Indian Gaming, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering offenses. Their respective spouses and co-defendants, Maria Del Pilar Aleu, Milagros Marile Acosta Torres, and Yusmary Shirley Duran pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering offenses.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo-Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the Miccosukee Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwayne E. Williams prosecuted this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture.
Outcome: Miami Beach Man Who Stole Millions from Miccosukee Tribe’s Casino and Woman Who Helped Him Launder It Sentenced to Federal Prison Terms