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Gaming Guru

Jeff German
 

Porn mogul: Check to casino was good

25 September 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Girls Gone Wild" mogul Joe Francis said Tuesday there was no criminal intent on his part to avoid paying his gambling debts to Wynn Las Vegas.

Francis contended the district attorney's office, which is seeking a warrant to arrest him on felony theft and fraud charges, is being used by Wynn Las Vegas to "shake him down" for the money.

"They're using the criminal justice system to extract a civil settlement," Francis said. "Their allegation is absurd."

The Sun reported Tuesday that the district attorney's bad check unit has filed a criminal complaint against Francis for writing a $2.5 million check to the Wynn in February 2007 on a closed bank account to obtain gambling markers. The district attorney alleges Francis still owes the Strip resort $2 million.

But Francis said he owes considerably less money, and he insisted his Wells Fargo bank account held plenty of cash — when he wrote the $2.5 million check.

He provided the Sun with records that show the account wasn't closed by the bank until May 2007 and Wynn didn't attempt to deposit the check until this April, about 14 months after he had written the check.

Wynn spokeswoman Jennifer Dunne declined to comment.

But Chief Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski, who runs the bad check unit, defended the pursuit of the criminal case, saying it has been handled as thousands before it have.

"In my estimation, this case is no different than any other case," he said.

According to Nevada law, Zadrowski said, there must be sufficient funds in a bank account when a casino attempts to deposit a check used to guarantee a marker — not when the check is written.

Casinos cash such checks as a last resort, he said.

"They deposit the checks when their efforts to collect the money are fruitless," Zadrowski said. "The real issue here is that (Francis) hasn't paid the markers. He doesn't get free money."

•••

The national media's interest in the O.J. Simpson trial is definitely on the wane.

District Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer says about half of the 30 news organizations originally covering the trial, mostly the locals, still are.

The latest to pack up their satellite trucks and head home this week were NBC News and several Los Angeles TV stations.

"It's almost back to normal here," Sommermeyer says.

Well, not quite.

Celebrity crime writer Dominick Dunne returned to covering the trial Tuesday for Vanity Fair following a well-publicized brief hiatus at Valley Hospital.

While grabbing lunch at the courthouse cafe, the 82-year-old Dunne said he was feeling much better and happy to be back on familiar turf.

•••

One thing that isn't subsiding at the courthouse is costly graffiti.

A recently replaced mirror in the first-floor men's bathroom has been defaced again, much to the dismay of courthouse officials.

Metro Police arrested one tag crew member in connection with the previous damage to the mirror.

But Detective Scott Black, of the gang unit, says the latest vandalism is the work of another tagger.

"We're turning over some rocks and hopefully we'll be able to get him identified," Black said. "He left a distinctive moniker."

Courthouse officials say the the cost of latest damage to the mirror is about $3,500.