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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 20, 2020

Miami Beach Man Who Stole Millions from Miccosukee Tribe’s Casino and Woman Who Helped Him Launder It Sentenced to Federal Prison Terms

Miami, Fl. - Today, U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles, sentenced 44-year-old Lester Lavin to 51 months in federal prison for his role in a computer fraud scheme that he and his co-workers created and used to steal over $5 million from their casino employer, Miccosukee Indian Gaming.  Judge Gayles also sentenced Lavin’s girlfriend, Anisleydi Vergel Hermida, 31, of Miami Beach, to six months’ imprisonment for helping Lavin launder his cut of the stolen money.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Miami Field Office, and Roland D. Pandolfi, Chief of Police, Miccosukee Police Department, made the announcement. 

Lavin worked for Miccosukee Indian Gaming, at its casino, for 12 years -- from 2003 to 2015.  For the first six years, Lavin worked as a video technician at the casino, servicing the casino’s electronic gaming machines such as video slot machines.  In 2009, Miccosukee Indian Gaming promoted Lavin to Video Supervisor.  Two years into his new job, in 2011, Lavin began conspiring with his own supervisor, Michel Aleu, two of his video technicians, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, and Leonardo Betancourt, and others, to steal money from the casino.  To accomplish their theft, Lavin and his co-conspirators tampered with the gaming machines’ computers, causing the machines to generate credit vouchers or tickets falsely showing that they had won money. Other members of the conspiracy, who did not work at the casino, would then exchange the credit vouchers for cash at ATMs located on the casino floor and at floor cashiers.  Lavin and his co-conspirators perpetrated their fraud and embezzlement scheme for more than four years. From January 2011 through May 2015, they stole about $5.3 million from the Miccosukee Indian Gaming casino.

Among other things, Lavin used his share of the stolen money to purchase a condominium in Miami Beach, to pay down various debts, including mortgages on properties in Miami-Dade County, and to purchase Florida Prepaid College Plans for two of his children.  Lavin laundered at least $654,150 of fraud proceeds, on his own, and with help from others, including his co-defendant, Vergel Hermida. Lavin and Vergel Hermida lived together in the Miami Beach condominium that Lavin purchased with fraud money.

On December 19, 2019, Lavin pleaded guilty to three counts in the indictment charging him with conspiracy to steal funds in excess of $1,000 from Miccosukee  Indian Gaming, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  On January 9, 2020, Vergel Hermida pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.  As part of their pleas, Lavin and Vergel Hermida agreed to forfeit Lavin’s Miami Beach condominium, another residential property in Miami, and the Florida Prepaid College Plans.

Six other defendants have pleaded guilty, and are awaiting sentencing later this month and in August 2020. Michel Aleu, Yohander Jorrin Melhen, and Leonardo Betancourt, all former employees and licensees of Miccosukee Indian Gaming, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal funds in excess of $1,000 from Miccosukee Indian Gaming, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering offenses. Their respective spouses and co-defendants, Maria Del Pilar Aleu, Milagros Marile Acosta Torres, and Yusmary Shirley Duran pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering offenses.

U.S. Attorney Fajardo-Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the Miccosukee Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwayne E. Williams prosecuted this case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture.

You may find a copy of this press release on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under Case No. 19-20435-Cr-Gayles.

 

 

Updated July 20, 2020