Money-laundering scheme no surprise to Manitoba casinos
Police and lotteries officials in Manitoba say news that criminals are using casinos to launder money comes as no shock to them — but they're confident it's not happening on grand scale in the province.
The CBC reported Tuesday that RCMP in Ontario suspected a convicted Toronto-area drug kingpin was laundering money through casinos by feeding cash into slot machines to buy credits, then cashing out and having the casinos issue cheques for the amount.
"Taking those cheques, they can go into a banking institution and deposit them into their accounts, which the banks wouldn't necessarily think there's anything illegitimate from a cheque from the Manitoba Lotteries Commission," explained Sgt. Line Karpish, an RCMP spokeswoman in Manitoba.
The scheme comes as no surprise to Mounties in Manitoba.
"I would suggest that every casino in Canada is vulnerable, and the activity is likely occurring there as well," said Sgt. Tim Tapley, who investigates money laundering for the force in Manitoba.
Casinos are vulnerable to this type of activity because they are cash-based, with most not even accepting debit or credit cards, he said.
"It's well-known within the drug community that if you wanted to exchange currency — smaller bills for $100 bills — that can be done at the casinos," he said. "We know that that activity does occur there."
Tapley's office works closely with Manitoba Lotteries employees to make sure they know what to look for. The Crown corporation owns and operates two casinos in Winnipeg, the province's VLTs and some lotteries in Manitoba.
Manitoba Lotteries officials said they train employees to look for suspicious behaviour, such as trying to exchange a lot of small bills for bigger ones or insisting that payouts be issued in cheque form.
"We probably issue only five or six cheques per day between the two casinos. So if that kind of behaviour happened here that is being described in Ontario, we'd spot it almost immediately because it'd be so much out of the ordinary," said Gerry Boose, vice-president of corporate security for Manitoba Lotteries.
"Although we're tempting because of the nature of our business … it's just a really bad place to do it because it's very unlikely that we're going to miss it," he added.
Lotteries officials say they report what looks like money laundering about once a week to police. From there, it's up to police to decide whether they'll investigate further.
However, Tapley said no charges have been laid in Manitoba in connection with money laundering in casinos.