Lansing Officials Shut Down Illegal Gambling Ring Run By Women

playing cars and handcuffs

The state of Michigan rounded up a ladies gambling ring in a real-life adaptation of “Ocean’s 8“.

The ladies version of “Ocean’s 11,” hit theaters this month and revolves around planned heist at the Met Ball. Conducting an illegal operation in plain sight is what the real-life and Hollywood productions have in common.

The Lansing Five ran illegal gambling ring

Continuing with the “Ocean’s 8” theme, we are calling the group of five women running an illegal gambling operation the Lansing Five. Operating a gambling ring in a street-front shop in southwest Lansing was a smart strategy – until it wasn’t.

Anonymous tips of betting on slot-style games started to flood the local police station. Acting on those tips, investigators visited the storefront on several occasions to verify the allegations.

City Council member Adam Hussain accidentally stumbled into the illegal gaming activity while discussing a city program with local Lansing businesses.

“It’s not exactly hidden,” Hussain, who represents Lansing’s third ward, said to the Lansing State Journal. “It’s staggering that so many proprietors are comfortable and operating in plain sight.”

In July 2017 there was enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. The search uncovered seven multiple-patron gaming stations and about 60 gaming terminals. Official charges would happen at a later date.

The gambling operations and the charges

The investigation continued for several months and involved the Michigan Gaming Control Board, Michigan Attorney General, and the Michigan State Police Gaming Section.

The investigation resulted in formal charges, and five employees of the illegal gambling business eventually pled guilty. There were several accusations all stemming from running a gaming operation for profit.

Li Deng, the business owner, and operator pled guilty to a felony for conducting a gambling operation. She faces 10 years in prison and a possible $100,000 fine. Additionally, she will turn over all the equipment used in the gaming operation plus $67,754 in profits.

Two employees Alma Shepard and Krista Albers pled guilty to keeping a gambling house – permitting for gain. Each faces two-years for the misdemeanor charge and a possible fine of $1,000.

Also, Cynthia Snyder and Angel Chocalas pled guilty to attempted keeping a gambling house – permitting for gain. They face a one-year misdemeanor charge. A dismal of the remaining charges are part of the plea deal.

A new local gambling law in the works

Richard Kalm, executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, said the following in a statement:

Lansing City Council recognizes the seriousness of this crime and plans to vote next week on a local illegal gambling ordinance. As often happens, we relied on tips from the public to uncover illegal gambling, and we ask the public to report possible illegal activity to police authorities or the Gaming Control Board.

The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to play any game for money, including bingo, card games, and online games. It addresses gambling as a business and also private games in someone’s home.

The legislation would exempt gambling licensed by the state and permitted fundraising events.

City Council President Carol Wood emphasized ordinance enforcement would focus primarily on businesses, especially those in busy commercial areas.

“We aren’t going to be sending police officers to everybody’s home to figure out who’s wagering during a football game,” said Wood.

The status of the proposed gambling law

It doesn’t appear from the June 11 meeting agenda that a vote on a new ordinance took place. The gambling law appeared in the minutes through a submitted a comment.

Tiffini Moore submitted her opinion via email to the city clerk and the mayor. It became part of the official record for the June 11 meeting.

Moore wrote:

Hey, guess what, I could give less than a turd about a gambling ordinance that the city doesn’t have money or manpower to enforce. What I would REALLY like you all to focus on are the city streets/potholes that have caused me to replace three tires on a car that is less than two years old because you aren’t going to or don’t have money to pay for those EITHER.

It is hard to know what kind of support the new gambling legislation in Lansing has. The sense of urgency to bring a new ordinance to a vote may merely be a reaction to arrests and curiosity around the newly-dubbed Lansing Five.

About

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at kimyuhl.com.