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Fenton man fined $200 and $350 in costs and fees after pleading guilty to charitable gaming violation

Detroit – A 41-year-old Fenton financial advisor and Bird Foundation chairman, William C. Bird, was sentenced to pay a $200 fine and $350 in costs and fees April 29 in Flushing’s 67th District Court for intentionally violating Michigan’s charitable gaming law. Bird pled guilty to a six-month misdemeanor for violating the Bingo Act, falsifying state gaming records to hide that he did not attend and oversee his own charitable gaming events.

An anonymous tip led to the investigation by the Michigan Attorney General’s office and Michigan Gaming Control Board and the charge against Bird, who also chairs the Fenton-based nonprofit group Emily’s Helping Hand. Bird lied to state regulators and falsified documents saying he was present and managing the Bird Foundation and Emily’s Helping Hand poker fundraisers. The state’s investigation determined he did not even attend multiple events in 2013 as state law requires. Chips were sold using his charity’s license at events held between January 2010 and December 2013 at Pocket Aces Poker Room inside Foutch’s Pub, 1477 S. Linden Road, Flint Township.

“State gaming law requires actual members of nonprofits to manage their own millionaire party fundraisers,” said Richard Kalm, MGCB executive director. “The MGCB also has put rules in place requiring charities to monitor their events more closely to help prevent individuals and unlicensed, unregulated poker rooms from using the charities’ fundraisers for personal benefit.”

In December, Bird was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond after a not guilty plea was entered on the misdemeanor charge of violating the Bingo Act, which authorizes charity poker. At sentencing, Judge David J. Goggins ordered him to pay the fine and fees by June 9, 2016, or serve five days in jail.

Bird falsified fundraising documents by attesting he was present and managing chip sales and events when he was absent.  During interviews, event workers claimed no knowledge about the charity but admitted receiving pay to staff Bird’s millionaire party events.

“The charities’ direct involvement in the events protects their interests and reduces opportunities for fraud and illegal activities to occur,” Kalm said.

Three Flint area “poker rooms” -- Pocket Aces, Lucky’s and Gloria’s -- are among several Michigan locations where charitable gaming was prohibited following MGCB investigations. The MGCB suspended charitable gaming at Pocket Aces Poker Room in October 2013 because of multiple Bingo Act violations.

Since 2014, 11 other individuals associated with Gloria’s, Pocket Aces and Lucky’s have pled guilty to felony or misdemeanor charges following investigations by the Michigan Attorney General’s office and the MGCB. Many of these individuals admitted to defrauding charities or misspending thousands of dollars raised through charitable gaming.

Michigan citizens are encouraged to report any suspicious or illegal gambling by calling the MGCB’s 24-hour anonymous tip line, 888-314-2682.

"The Michigan Gaming Control Board shall ensure the conduct of fair and honest gaming to protect the interests of the citizens of the State of Michigan."