Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anchorage Lucky Times Lotto Now Shuttered, Former Owner Abe Spicola Faces Additional Charges

In January 2011, both KTVA Channel 11 and the Anchorage Press reported on the legal troubles being faced by the owner of the Lucky Times Lotto in Anchorage, Abe Spicola. At the time, Spicola was charged with 10 different counts associated with the operation of his business, including three felonies for receiving bribes, one misdemeanor for falsifying documents, and six counts of failure to file a monthly report and pay the non-profits for whom he was operating the gaming permits. The 2010 S.T.A.R. Lotto, designed to help raise money for Standing Together Against Rape, was not directly affected, although the drawing was pushed forward five times until a reduced grand prize of only $350,000 was awarded in June 2010. In contrast, the 2009 Lotto made its winner $500,000 richer (before taxes in both cases).

Now KTVA is reporting that on August 26th, 2011, a grand jury returned an indictment on additional charges, including theft, schemes to defraud, falsifying business records and illegally taking money from his business. The Alaska Court System database indicates two separate cases open on him, under the name Abraham Spicola:

-- Case No. 3AN-11-00556CR: This is the original case, just re-opened. Originally there were 18 different counts against him; however, the Dockets page shows that on August 26th, prosecutors dismissed charges 1-9 and re-filed charges 11-18. The latter include two counts of Theft 2, two counts of Misapply Property, two counts Scheme to Defraud, and two counts of Falsify Business Records. A summary of the allegations is provided in my January 27th, 2011 post.

-- Case No. 3AN-11-08720CR: This is the new case, consisting of 13 counts. These include one count of Theft 2-Value $500-$24,999, and 12 counts of Unemployment Benefits-False Statement (Misdemeanor).

The bottom line -- according to the court system database, Abe Spicola is facing a total of 21 different counts. KTVA news video embedded below:

Since this post, the Anchorage Daily News has published a detailed story in which they state the two criminal complaints specified above have been combined into one indictment, in which Spicola faces nine felony counts, including theft, fraud, and falsifying business records, in addition to the false unemployment compensation claims. ADN notes that Spicola allegedly stole at least $25,000 from Alaska Bikers Advocating Training and Education -- ABATE -- and more than $10,000 from Anchorage Community Theatre, and that he received $4,409 in unemployment benefits falsely claimed while working full time at Lucky Times Lotto. The Anchorage Press has also published another story providing some background on how the pull-tab industry works in Alaska, and discloses that Spicola's tentative trial date is October 19th.

Neither Spicola nor his attorney had any public comment. Back in January 2011, when the initial story first surfaced, Spicola blew it off as an "accounting dispute" and proclaimed his innocence. Spicola once worked as an investigator for the Department of Revenue Gaming Division, then established the Lucky Times Lotto. If prosecutors are right, Spicola then used his inside knowledge of state gaming rules to manipulate the system to his benefit. And it worked like a charm in 2009, when lotto tickets were selling like hotcakes and the grand prize was awarded at the appointed time.

Unfortunately for Spicola, the recession caught up with Alaska just enough to slow ticket sales for the 2010 drawing. Thus Spicola kept pushing the drawing forward again and again. Ultimately, he decided to award a lesser payout. Shortly thereafter, the legal system began to close in on him.

This case will undoubtedly be used by social conservatives to discourage any move by the state towards either establishing a statewide lottery or to enable Alaska to join the national Powerball lottery.

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