$425,000 Spent at Casino Helps Lead to Welfare Fraud Charge for Circle Pines Woman

A Circle Pines woman has been charged with wrongly obtaining public assistance after investigators learned that during the same period, she spent over $425,000 at Mystic Lake Casino and had received nearly $191,000 in winnings that hadn’t been reported on several applications for assistance.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Anoka County this week, Connie Lihn Tran, 49, began receiving public assistance in 2015. The complaint alleges that between August 2016 and July 2018, Tran failed to accurately report her income “many times” to the Anoka County Department of Human Services (DHS), which resulted in Tran receiving over $28,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled.

Tran stated in several applications for assistance during the relevant time period that she received income from several sources, including employment with nail salons, gifts from her mother, and unspecified self‐employment income. Tran generally reported monthly income of less than $2,500 from all sources and said that she did not own any cash or checking accounts and did not have any gambling winnings, loans, gifts, or other supplementary income, the complaint said.

DHS referred Tran’s file to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office in April 2018 after Tran provided DHS with a bank statement displaying large deposits and withdrawals inconsistent with her reported income. Investigators noted a large number of significant withdrawals occurring at Mystic Lake Casino, a large number of cash deposits, and that Tran had never reported income from gambling in her applications for assistance.

Investigators contacted a gaming compliance coordinator at Mystic Lake Casino and found that Tran’s “cash in total” at the casino was $425,020 between January 1, 2017 and May 6, 2018. The coordinator told investigators that the “cash in total” equaled the amount of all money used to purchase chips or bills into a machine and refers to “new money” introduced to the casino system. In the same time period, Tran had received $190,896 in winnings paid out by cashiers at the casino.

Based on the discrepancies between Tran’s reported income and her spending at Mystic Lake Casino, investigators subsequently obtained a search warrant for Tran’s bank accounts. A resulting analysis of three of Tran’s checking accounts confirmed that Tran had been underreporting her income and assets to DHS. Bank records indicated total deposits in the amount of $61,913.82 in 2016, $171,205.76 in 2017, and $85,388.14 through August 23, 2018.

The complaint alleges that Tran fraudulently received $24,914.61 in medical assistance, and $3,291 in food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) as a result of underestimating her income to DHS between 2016 and 2018.

Tran was charged by summons on Dec. 2 with one felony count of wrongfully obtaining assistance. The complaint states that the maximum penalty if convicted is up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. Tran is not currently in custody and scheduled to make her first court appearance on the charge on Jan. 16 in Anoka County.

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