Case against former Crown baccarat dealer up in the air

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
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A Supreme Court of Appeal case against a former baccarat dealer and an alleged accomplice could collapse after the court found the casino’s security staff attempted to coerce admissions from the pair.

The Age reports the two people involved are alleged to have stolen more than $400,000 from Crown Resorts.

The former croupier, who was given the pseudonym Adam Hoch by the court, and co-accused Milena Charles, also a pseudonym, both made full confessions to police in May 2017.

Raids of Ms Charles’ Southbank apartment uncovered a sports bag with more than $200,000 cash and casino chips worth about $50,000.

The proceeds were seized under asset confiscation laws, but will be returned to the accused if the charges are dropped.

Mr Hoch, who worked in Crown’s high-roller Mahogany Room, is alleged to have looked at cards and informed Ms Charles which cards were about o be dealt, helping them win $431,000 over 58 hours at his baccarat table between March and May 2017.

But a decision in the County Court of Victoria in March, which was upheld this week by the Supreme Court of Appeal, found the conduct of Crown’s security and surveillance unit had “tainted” the admissions.

Without the evidence, the Office of Public Prosecutions could now be forced to drop the charges against Mr Hoch and Ms Charles, who have both pleaded not guilty despite providing “substantial and fulsome admissions”.

The conduct of Crown’s investigators called into question

The case raises serious probity concerns about Crown’s investigators, who interrogated Mr Hoch for more than three hours, while Ms Charles was detained for more than two hours, before they were handed over to police, according to court judgments.

The court found that during questioning by Crown staff on May 1, 2017, Mr Hoch was threatened with a long prison sentence if he refused to confess, while Ms Charles was warned that her parents and partner’s parents would face serious consequences back in China.

Crown’s investigators, all former members of Victoria Police, were also found to have claimed they could influence the outcome of a police investigation if Mr Hoch and Ms Charles admitted to the alleged scam.

Mr Hoch was told by Crown Surveillance member Manuel Lyberis: “We are just trying to help you mate. It’s like a get-out-of-jail card and you might only get one opportunity.”

Crown’s investigations manager, Jason McHutchison, warned Mr Hoch he would “cop the full extent of the law” if he refused to answer questions honestly.

After telling Mr Hoch he had been a detective with Victoria Police for 12 years, Mr McHutchison said he would ask the police to “treat him alright.”

“That’s why we have dealings with the police. That’s my job, to deal with police…if we tell them…to treat someone good, they’ll treat them good,” Mr McHutchison said, according to the judgment.

The general manager of security and surveillance at Crown, Craig Walsh, also a former police officer, was present during some of the interviews.

He told Mr Hoch he wanted to be able to tell police he had co-operated and advised him to consider his family.

Two other women initially implicated in the scam have since had their charges dropped.

Mr Hoch came to the company’s attention during a routine review of the previous day’s biggest winners, which included an examination of CCTV footage of the table and an assessment of betting patterns.

In March, County Court judge Richard Smith ruled the conduct of Crown’s surveillance team had significantly compromised the “substantial and fulsome admissions” that Mr Hoch and Ms Charles later made to police at Melbourne West station.

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