Businessman accused of gambling scheme was a victim, attorney says - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Businessman accused of gambling scheme was a victim, attorney says

By TERRY KINNEY, Associated Press Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) - The attorney for an Akron businessman accused of running an illegal gambling operation has told a jury that if they want to know who's really guilty they should "follow the money."

Defense lawyer Robert Gutzwiller said in opening arguments
Wednesday that his client, Philip F. George Jr., was victimized by a man who has made a deal with prosecutors.

George, 43, is on trial on charges of gambling, cheating,
telecommunications fraud, operating a gambling house and
conspiracy. He could be sentenced to up to 39 years in prison if convicted of all 11 counts.

Prosecutors say "instant bingo" tickets were sold at dozens of bars around Ohio. They charge that George and James H. Jackson, 64, of the Akron suburb of Tallmadge, shared in profits that should have gone to charities.

"There is no indication that Phil ever took a dime that wasn't his," Gutzwiller told the jury in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. "There is no motive, other than charitable motive, for Phil George to do any of this."

"Follow the money," Gutzwiller told the jury. "The money was stopping at Jimmy Jackson," Gutzwiller said.

Jackson pleaded guilty in January to money laundering, gambling and racketeering -- three of the 11 charges on which he was indicted. Under his plea deal with the state, prosecutors agreed to recommend that Jackson be sentenced to no more than four years in prison.

Prosecutors also expect Jackson to testify against George.

Judge Robert Ruehlman told jurors he expects the trial to take three weeks, although Gutzwiller told a reporter later he thinks it will take four weeks.

Prosecutors said George and Jackson were partners, with George taking a lead role.

"He called all the shots in the operation," prosecutor Bill
Anderson said.

Prosecutors began presenting their case Wednesday afternoon with testimony from Harold Torrens, an investigator with the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Torrens testified about the manufacture and distribute of the instant-bingo tickets and how operators of the scheme recruited bar owners to sell the tickets.

Jurors watched as prosecutors played two undercover videotapes purporting to show the sales pitches that were made to bar owners.

Because the audio portion was difficult to understand, the judge ordered prosecutors to provide transcripts of the tapes to the jury on Thursday.

Anderson told jurors that the gambling scheme reaped between $50 million and $60 million in illegal profits in about two years. In raids in November 2000, authorities confiscated about $4.8 million, including about $3.6 million from Jackson's home.

No money was found at George's home or business.

Prosecutors said he had moved it somewhere else before the raids. They said the operation's leaders were careful to deal only in cash and to keep no records of any transactions.

"I cannot show you where all the money went, but I do know
where it didn't go," Anderson told the jury. "It didn't go to the charitable organizations that were supposed to get it."

One charity that received some of the proceeds was Child Care Foundation Inc., an Akron business formed by Jackson and George to operate the instant-bingo scam, prosecutors said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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