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Flint man faces felony larceny and charitable gaming violation charges following Michigan Attorney General and Gaming Control Board investigation

DETROIT, November 16, 2017 - A 43-year-old Flint man was arraigned Nov. 9 in 66th District Court, Corunna, on felony larceny and charitable gaming law violation charges following an investigation by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Investigators say James Russel Johnston Jr. violated state chartable gaming law by requiring a supplier to pay him gambling profits at Owosso Poker Room, 1405 East M-21, Owosso. Johnston allegedly received nearly $30,000 in improper payments from late August 2014 until October 2015 when the MGCB suspended gaming at the location. 

“When an unlicensed location receives gambling profits, it is against the law and undermines the integrity of charitable gaming,” said Richard Kalm, executive director, MGCB. “These kinds of illegal activities can rob charities of the ability to raise funds successfully when the MGCB must enforce the law and stop gaming. It also can cast a cloud on the good works the charities do.”

Johnston allegedly ran games at the Owosso Poker Room by setting up someone as a fake gaming supplier for his location while Johnston actually ran the supplier business behind the scenes. Charities reported Johnston handled all scheduling and any issues related to financial statements. The location also allegedly exceeded chip sales limits during tournaments.

Under Michigan law, charities manage their own gaming events or may get help from a licensed gaming supplier who may provide dealers, cards, chips and similar items. Location owners such as bars or service organization halls are authorized to receive only reasonable rent payments from a charity and may not be involved directly or indirectly in charitable casino-style gaming.

The felony charge, larceny by false pretenses, carries a penalty of 15 years in jail and/or a $15,000 fine. The misdemeanor charge, conspiracy to commit gambling-charitable gaming supplier violations, has a penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Currently, charities are working with a licensed supplier and renting the same space for charitable gaming.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"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."