Money Launderer at Dover Downs Slot Machines Linked to a Local Heroin Ring
A man caught on camera laundering money on Dover Downs slot machines is now in custody. The man is alleged by Delaware State Police to be part of their Operation Duck Hunt, an investigation of a heroin distribution ring. The slots gambler’s activities at Dover Downs appears to have given authorities their biggest break in the Duck Hunt investigations.
Salman Choudhary was seen on casino cameras playing the slot machines in a flamboyant way, making him something of a celebrity in the region. Police believe he was at the casino to launder money. In essence, he came to Dover Downs in order to exchange his cash with casino money. Choudhary’s money had serial numbers which would make investigators and officials suspicious, so he wanted to exchange it for money which would look like gambling winnings. In such cases, even losing money through gambling is a positive, because it can be spent without concern.
State Officials Wanted Surveillance
The problem with the plan is it was doomed to failure. After Dover Downs reported the player’s high volume of play (which was required by law), it was alerted by state officials to track his play. Therefore, every time Salman Choudhary entered the building, they kept him under surveillance.
Ed Sutor, the Dover Downs CEO and president, said of his casino’s role in the investigation: “When we found out he was here on the floor, our cameras were trained on him. We cooperated with the regulatory people for over two years. If it had not been for us following regulations properly, he wouldn’t have been caught, at least not from his activities here.”
Because the Delaware racetrack-casino (racino) followed regulations, the video of the suspected criminal could help to convict the man. In the short term, his flamboyant video drew media attention.
Operation Duck Hunt
Salman Choudhary is also one of 13 people who were arrested in the Operation Duck Hunt investigations, which involved a heroin ring spread throughout Sussex and Kent counties. The members of the drug ring are alleged to have funneled money through real estate and business ventures, in an attempt to hide their drug revenues.
The plan was ambitious, but the plan ultimately did not work. Thanks to a 2-year investigation, authorities should have the evidence they need to convict. In their arrests, Delaware State Police say they confiscated 1.75 kilograms of heroin. On the street, that amount of the drug would net around $1.2 million.
Casinos and Money Laundering
Casinos have been used by money launderers for generations. The flow of large amounts of cash is an opportunity for organized crime and other sorts of criminals to launder their ill-gotten gains. Mobsters once owned casinos because it was big business, but also an opportunity to hide their criminal assets.
For that reason, federal and state regulations exist for anti-money laundering purposes. Due to such laws, it is much harder to cheat the system in a game of slots, blackjack, or poker.
Routine Procedures Were Followed
Despite those regulations, the management at Dover Downs had no idea where Salman Choudhary’s money came from. They knew that the officials at the Delaware Department of Homeland Security wanted him watched, which was enough for Dover Downs to train their cameras on the man, each time he entered the casino. Management knew he was spending a lot of money at the casino.
Slots Cards and Monitoring Systems
Each of the 2,400 gaming machines at Dover Downs are keyed into the same system. Dover Downs can track electronically the money spent on each of them. When a person uses a slots card (which Choudhary used), the casino can determine exactly how much money a gambler has spent at the casino — and on each slot machine.
Regulations require a casino to filed a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) anytime a player gambles more than $10,000. Dover Downs said it filed a lot of CTRs on Salman Choudhary, who was a high roller.
No Attempts to Hide Activity
Officials say Salman Choudhary did little to hide the amount of money he was spending at the casino. The activity got the attention of regulators, who felt it was a possible money laundering case. They did not suspect Choudhary’s gambling was connected to the heroin ring at first, but they eventually connected the dots.
Greg Nolt, director of Delaware’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, said at a news conference to discuss the Operation Duck Hunt arrests, said of the investigation: “It began as a possible money laundering case and evolved into one of the largest heroin seizures in Delaware, along with other asset seizures throughout Sussex County to include money, property and guns.“
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