A former Palms race and sports book employee avoided a federal prison term Thursday for her role in a betting scheme federal authorities say defrauded the resort of more than $800,000.
At the request of a prosecutor, who lauded Kassie Baker for her cooperation in the case, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey sentenced the woman to three years of probation and ordered her to share with other defendants in the payment of $232,231 in restitution.
Baker, 31, a former ticket writer, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
She was indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2012 with two other former race and sports book employees, supervisors Michael Albanese and Matthew Kidle, in a scheme that rigged wagers on horse races to defraud the Palms between 2006 and 2007.
Albanese and Kidle, along with a fourth defendant, bettor Charles Pecchio, all have pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced.
In court Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Vasquez sought a lighter sentence for Baker, telling Dorsey that Baker’s early cooperation in the case likely caused two of her co-defendants to plead guilty. Baker could have faced up to 21 months behind bars had the government not gone to bat for her.
“She wants another chance, and I believe she deserves another chance,” her lawyer Chris Aaron said.
Aaron explained that Baker’s legal troubles were the result of a drug problem. She spent the last three months in federal custody after the conditions of her pre-trial release were revoked because she smoked marijuana.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” an emotional Baker told Dorsey. “I realize this is not a victimless crime.”
Baker, who has two young children, promised Dorsey she would beat her drug habit and stay out of trouble in the future.
“I’m trying to do right by my family,” she said.
After ordering her release from custody, Dorsey told Baker she hopes she won’t see her back in the judge’s courtroom.
The Palms investigation, conducted by federal homeland security and state gaming agents, was an offshoot of an investigation into a massive illegal gambling operation run by two brothers, Michael and Jeffrey Jelinsky.
The brothers, who were accused of accepting millions of dollars in illegal bets coast to coast, pleaded guilty in that case in 2009 and served federal prison time.
All three former Palms employees were accused of using their positions to accept invalid quinella wagers on horse races from the Jelinskys, Pecchio and others. Winning bets were paid out, and losing bets were refunded.
The Palms, which has since hired a company to run its race and sports book, cooperated in the investigation.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.