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29 Pleaded to Bingo Charity Racket Charges

2 October 2002

OHIO – As reported by the Plains Dealer: "Nearly half of the 61 people, taverns and charities charged in an instant bingo-for-charity racket have pleaded to gambling-related charges and have agreed to forfeit more than $180,000 to Lakewood police and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office.

"As of yesterday, 29 people and organizations had pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in the court of Common Pleas Judge Ralph McAllister. One charity pleaded to a felony, records show.

"Those who pleaded were `lower-level' figures - clerks at instant-bingo storefronts, people selling instant-bingo tickets and bar owners - in a loose network that diverted $1.03 million from charity to private pockets from May 1999 to November 2001, investigators said.

"…Buckeye Boxing sponsored the gambling at an instant-bingo storefront that Lakewood police raided last year. The charity's chief financial officer was Mark Schafer, 35, of University Heights, who police described as the `common thread' in the gambling enterprise.

"…So far, County Prosecutor William Mason's office has dropped the felony charge against all other defendants in favor of misdemeanors.

"In exchange, defendants agreed to testify against principal figures in the illegal gambling enterprise, Mason said.

"Under plea agreements with seven taverns, the owners or their corporations agreed to pay $20,000 each in forfeitures, said Assistant County Prosecutor Brendan Sheehan.

"…A number of the bars made more than $20,000 in instant-ticket sales, money that should have gone to charity, Sheehan said…"

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