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Fraud Charges in Boston Area Casino Property

After stiff competition between competing casino plans for the greater Boston area, last month Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted in favor of Steve Wynn's casino planned for a spot on the Mystic River. Now, three owners of the Everett, Massachusetts land where the Wynn casino was to be build face state and federal charges of fraud. 

The Gaming Commission held deliberations between competing casino resort plans from Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun. The Wynn Resort project would locate a casino and resort in Everett, just north of Boston. The locally backed project by Mohegan Sun at Suffolk Downs called for a casino in Revere. After 5 days, the commission finally came to a decision, voting 3 to 1 in favor of the Wynn plan.

Three men have been arrested on state and federal fraud charges for allegedly hiding the financial interests of a known mob associate, and convicted felon, from both the Massachusetts Gaming Commision and Wynn Resorts. Charles Lightbody is the alleged known Mafia associates, and is being held without bail until the next hearing. Massachusetts gaming laws bars criminals from profiting from gambling facilities.

The federal indictment elaborated on the charges, that if Lightbody's involvement with the property became known, it could jeopardize the Wynn casino deal. The group allegedly wrote up fraudulent documents regarding ownership of the land. Charges for the three men include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aiding and abetting. Lightbody is a known associate of the New England Family of La Cosa Nostra. The other two named in the indictment, Anthony Gattineri and Dustin DeNunzio, were released after their initial hearings.

There has been plenty of controversy surrounding the development of a casino near Boston. The Greater Boston casino license is projected to be worth $700 to $800 million a year in gambling revenue. With all this money at play, it is no surprise that people have expressed concerns over improper influence. Even the Chairman of the Gaming Commission, Stephen Crosby, recused himself from the casino discussions after facing accusations that he had conflicts of interest connected to both casino groups.

The Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh has voiced his frustrations with the commission. Walsh has argued the commission has a bias against the City of Boston, and sought host community status from both of the proposed casinos. Walsh had struck a deal with the Mohegan Sun casino, but no deal yet for compensation to the city from the Wynn.

The Mayor of Everett, Carlo DeMaria was happy with the vote, saying this would transform a desolate section of the city, "it's going to be a snowball, getting bigger and bigger."

After learning of the fraud charges, Mayor Walsh expressed his concerns related the Wynn property land. "The Massachusetts Gaming Commission and their investigatory body clearly failed the people of Boston and the Commonwealth by allowing...the taint of corruption to be associated with this land transaction," Walsh said.

Both the Wynn group and the Gaming Commission saw the indictments in a different light, by emphasizing the aggressive steps taken by law enforcement and regulators. The Commission's director of communications, Elaine Driscoll, said the indictments, "send a loud message that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will take every measure necessary to preserve the integrity of the gaming industry."

However, Massachusetts voters could decide to put a halt to the entire process when they decide whether to repeal the casino law this November. Through state referendum, voters could repeal the law, which would also shutter the Penn National slot parlor in Plainville, and end the Springfield MGM casino plans. The bad press surrounding the recent fraud charges could increase support towards repealing the controversial casino law.

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