Aug. 2--DAVID BOWERMASTER
A former card dealer at the Nooksack River Casino pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Tuesday to one count of conspiracy for his role in an alleged cheating scheme that prosecutors say cost the casino more than $90,000.
In a plea agreement approved by the federal court, Levi Mayfield, 24, admitted to performing "false shuffles" that enabled two alleged coconspirators, George Lee and Tien Duc Vu, to cheat at the game of mini-baccarat on at least four occasions in October 2005.
Mayfield also said he was recruited to take part in the scheme by Jacob Nickels, son of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Jacob Nickels worked as a pit boss at the casino in Deming from October 2003 until October 2006.
It's unclear what, if any, impact Mayfield's plea will have on Jacob Nickels' case. Nickels' attorney, Jeffrey
Robinson, had no comment on the plea.
Nickels pleaded not guilty in June to one count of conspiracy and four counts of theft of funds from a gaming establishment on Indian lands.
"We will definitely have a statement at the time the case is resolved, whether that's through a trial or a plea," Robinson said.
Mayfield and Nickels were among dozens of people indicted by federal grand juries in Seattle and San Diego in May for allegedly being part of a sophisticated racketeering ring that used bribes, transmitters and cardcounters to cheat casinos in Washington, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana and Canada of more than $3 million.
By not thoroughly shuffling cards, prosecutors allege, dealers rigged the games so that players involved knew which cards would be dealt, allowing them to walk away with huge winnings in mini-baccarat and blackjack.
Prosecutors say Lee and Vu approached Nickels in August 2005 and asked him to introduce them to dealers who would be interested in participating in the cheating scheme.
Nickels, in turn, recruited Mayfield and Kasey McKillip, another card dealer, to take part in the scam, prosecutors say.
Nickels allegedly received $5,000 from Lee in exchange for making the introductions.
In his plea agreement, Mayfield said that during October 2005 he "communicated regularly with Lee, McKillip and Nickels regarding the cheating scheme" at the Nooksack River Casino.
Mayfield said Lee paid him more than $5,000 to perform the false shuffles.
An attorney for McKillip last week asked the court to postpone the trial date in the case to Sept. 24 from Aug. 13, to give him more time to review the large amount of discovery material, which includes several hours of security videotapes.
Robinson, Jacob Nickels' attorney, said he plans to formally join the motion for continuance.
"You shouldn't read anything into that one way or another, except that we'd like a little more time" to prepare, Robinson said.
<<The Bellingham Herald (WA)(KRT) -- 08/06/07>>