Gambling official: School chief lost less than $2,000 in Missouri casinos - Saturday 12th of March 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Gambling records at Missouri's 11 riverboat casinos indicate a former northwest Missouri superintendent who stole more than $844,000 from his school district bought less than $2,000 in slot machine credits or table game chips since 2001.

Ronnie Gene DeShon, former superintendent of the Pattonsburg School District, admitted in federal court earlier this month that he embezzled $844,477 over four years from the district. He said he used to money to feed his gambling addiction.

But Troy Stremming, president of the Missouri Riverboat Gaming Association, said if DeShon lost hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling, it wasn't at Missouri's riverboat casinos. Gambling records at the state's riverboat casinos indicate DeShon bought less than $2,000 in slot machine credits or table game chips since 2001.

"Generally we do not talk about the specifics of people's gambling activity," Stremming said. "But in this case, someone embezzled $844,000, and we are frustrated with the implication that he gambled it away here. That clearly is not what our records reflect."

Missouri's $500 loss limit rule, which prohibits anyone from buying more than $500 in chips or slot machine credits over a two-hour period, requires records to be kept of all gambling activity. Gamblers use a club card through which casinos can track their losses.

Stremming said it's "discouraging" that courts, the media and the public would "take the word of a thief that they've gambled money away."

"Here you have a person who has a mind-set that stealing from children was acceptable behavior," he said. "Then we just assume because he says he has a gambling problem, he has one."

U.S. Attorney Todd Graves said his office doesn't just assume defendants are telling the truth when they blame gambling problems for their crimes.

"We get all kinds of white-collar criminals that claim they have a gambling addiction," Graves said. "There's always a possibility they secreted something away."

He said in some cases his office has followed up on claims that stolen money had been lost at casinos.

"If there's a large loss, we're going to try to find out where the money went," Graves said.

DeShon, 50, faces up to 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine and restitution of the stolen money, under terms of a plea agreement. He has not yet been sentenced.

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