Puyallup couple lucky at casino, unlucky with feds

KING 5's Chris Ingalls reports on a Puyallup couple that hit it big at the casinos but now has to pay taxpayers back.

Luck ran out Friday for a Western Washington couple that has won more than a million dollars in the last few years gambling at casinos.

Cheryl D. Mann appeared in federal court in Tacoma for sentencing on a charge that she received welfare benefits, while not reporting to the government her casino winnings.

Court records show that gambling winnings from Mann and her husband since 2012 have totaled $1,604,652 on slot machines.

Records show that during the same time period, Mann received more than $80,000 in Social Security disability benefits, food stamps and medical coverage.

The United States Attorney’s Office in Seattle does not dispute that Mann has a legitimate disability, but said she broke the law when she did not report the winnings to the government.

The law requires welfare recipients to report all income, and the $1,000,000 in winnings would have disqualified Mann and her husband from receiving benefits.

How she got the money to gamble remains in question.

At her sentencing Friday, Mann’s defense lawyer said she was simply a good gambler.

“She had a system at the casino. It worked,” Colin Fieman told the court.

But there could have been another source of income.

Mann’s husband, who is not named in court documents, is expected to plead guilty next week in a nearly $3 million investment scheme in Alaska.

Mann’s lawyer insisted his client played no part in that scheme.

Records show that Mann and her husband won jackpots on slot machines dozens of times over the years, with winnings ranging from $1,000 to $36,000.

Judge Ronald Leighton cited Mann’s legitimate disability and lack of criminal record when he sentenced her to a term of three years probation, instead of the fourth months in prison the federal government requested.

Leighton also banned Mann from casinos and ordered her to repay more than $80,000 in stolen benefits.

“I never pictured myself in a place where I’d be dealing with fraud,” a tearful Mann said in an apology to the court.

 

Editor's note: Mann is serving three years probation, not three months as previously stated in the video. 

© 2017 KING-TV


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