News and Press Releases

Former Pit Boss Introduced Casino Cheats to Dealers at Nooksack Tribal Casino

December 14, 2007

JACOB DYSON NICKELS, 26, of Seattle, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to three months in prison, three months of home detention and 100 hours of community service for Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Funds from a Tribal Gaming Establishment. NICKELS pleaded guilty on August 30, 2007. As part of his plea agreement, NICKELS will join with other defendants convicted in the case, to pay more than $90,510 in restitution to the Nooksack River Casino. At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour told him he was imposing the prison time because of the seriousness of the offense.

According to the facts outlined in the plea agreement, in August 2005, NICKELS met with co-defendant George Lee. NICKELS was working as a pit boss at the Nooksack River Casino and Lee approached him to get his assistance with a cheating scheme. NICKELS agreed to introduce Lee to two mini-baccarat dealers. NICKELS introduced Lee to the dealers and in return received three separate payments from Lee totaling $5,000. Lee showed the two dealers how to do a “false shuffle.” The technique allowed Lee and a co-conspirator to place bets knowing which cards would come up next at the table. In this way, Lee and his co-conspirator stole more than $90,000 from the casino. During the period of the cheating, October 2005, NICKELS was regularly in touch with Lee and the two dealers by cell phone.

In May 2007, indictments were unsealed in Seattle and San Diego charging 24 defendants in an alleged racketeering enterprise and a scheme to cheat casinos across the country out of millions of dollars. According to the indictments, from in or about March 2002, through the date of the indictments, the defendants formed and participated in a racketeering enterprise by cheating at gambling at casinos across the United States. The indictment lists 18 casinos that were allegedly targeted by members of the conspiracy, including 10 casinos that are owned and operated by Indian tribes. The indictments allege that members of the conspiracy repeatedly won thousands of dollars during card games – up to $868,000 on one occasion. In Western Washington the Nooksack River Casino and the Emerald Queen Casino were victims of the cheating ring.

At sentencing Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London said the theft from the casino was “tantamount to stealing from a non-profit organization.” William Coleman with the Nooksack Tribe explained how the revenue from the casino supports many social programs for the tribe, including building housing for homeless tribal members.

JACOB NICKELS apologized to the Nooksack Tribe, and said it was “the biggest mistake of my life” and that he would “regret it every day for the rest of (his) life.”

In the Western District of Washington the case is being investigated by the FBI and the Washington State Gambling Commission with assistance from the Puyallup and Nooksack Tribal Gaming Agencies.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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