Million-dollar baccarat scheme nets woman prison time


A Southern California woman was sentenced Thursday to five months in prison and five months of home confinement for her role in a $1 million baccarat credit scheme at resorts owned by Station Casinos.

Yuli Eaton, 47, also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after she gets out of prison and pay $9,000 in restitution, the money she was paid to participate in the scheme.

Eaton, now a massage therapist, made a tearful apology in court to Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt, saying she realized she had "made a big mistake."

Her lawyer, Dan Winder said Eaton was duped into joining the conspiracy, and he argued for a sentence of probation because of her strong cooperation with prosecutors.

Winder said Eaton's trial testimony led to the March 27 conviction of the ringleader, De Rong Shang of Southern California.

But Hunt said he felt obligated to give Eaton prison time because she helped Shang recruit players to the scheme and then managed them. The judge allowed her to surrender to prison authorities on Oct. 19.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Duncan described Eaton's role as "fairly significant." She was paid $100 a day, he said.

Eaton pleaded guilty prior to Shang's two-week trial in front of Hunt to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Shang, 50, wound up convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 22 counts of wire fraud. He is in federal custody waiting to be sentenced.

Duncan revealed in May that the Chinese-born Shang was the target of a new FBI investigation into a similar, but larger, baccarat credit scheme on the Strip. Multiple casinos, including Paris Las Vegas, were alleged to have been victimized by Shang's group.

The Station Casinos credit scheme unfolded between December 2006 and April 2007 at three of the company's resorts - Red Rock, Green Valley Ranch and Palace Station, prosecutors alleged.

Shang and Eaton recruited people to open Bank of America accounts funded by Shang. Then, Shang helped the recruits apply for lines of credit at the casinos.

Once the lines of credit were approved, the recruits transferred the money from their accounts to Shang's account.

The recruits, who were paid $300 for every $10,000 line of credit they received, withdrew chips from their lines of credit and played baccarat at the casinos, prosecutors alleged.

They carried out a scam known as "rolling the chips" to make it look as though they were losing money, when in fact they were just hiding chips and giving them to other co-conspirators.

Shang ended up cashing in the chips, prosecutors alleged.

By the time the casinos tried to collect the unpaid markers, the accounts had been drained or closed.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

 

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