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Gambling a Common Theme in Corruption Cases

By DNAinfo Staff | October 8, 2015 6:06pm | Updated on October 9, 2015 8:34am

DOWNTOWN — A clue to former Chicago Public Schools boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett's reason for scheming may be found in her indictment.

"I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit," she said in an email to Gary Solomon, former CEO of SUPES Academy, which allegedly funnelled more than $100,000 to her in exchange for help in winning no-bid contracts.

If gambling was behind Bird-Bennett's decision-making in the case — she has agreed to plead guilty to corruption charges, prosecutors said — she would be the latest to join public officials whose troubles had a casino connection.

Among them:

• Former Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, who was sent to prison in 2013 for tax evasion for siphoning off $266,000 in campaign money to pay for gambling debts racked up at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. At his trial, a casino official said Beavers had lost some $500,000 playing slot machines.

• In 2003, west suburban Cicero mayor Betty Loren Maltese was convicted of insurance racketeering charges that cost the city millions of dollars. Prosecutors said that she had spent some $18 million in casinos. In the five months between her conviction and her sentencing, she gambled $1.2 million at Last Vegas casinos, prosecutors said.

A recent story in the Times of Northwest Indiana about a Lake Station official dipping into campaign funds and food pantry money to pay casino debts listed these politicians connected to gambling problems:

• New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran is facing charges she used campaign funds to gamble at casinos.

• The former police chief of Greensburg, Indiana, admitted stealing $75,000 from the department's evidence room for gambling.

• The former assistant treasurer of Niles, Ohio, admitted stealing $142,772 from that city saying she was a gambling addict.

• The former Deputy Treasurer of Charlotte, Michigan, convicted of embezzlement, said she lost $50,000 at one casino alone.

• An Oklahoma state senator pleaded guilty to setting up fake corporations to steal more than $1.8 million to pay bills and "support a hidden gambling habit."

• Former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Conor said she lost $13 million gambling. She was required to reimburse a charity set up by her husband some $2 million.

• A Tecumseh, Ohio school superintendent stole public funds to gamble. "I am ashamed that I let gambling take over my life," he said, according to the Dayton Daily News.

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