WRANGELL — Lavina “Lovey” Brock, 68, of Wrangell, pleaded not guilty to four counts of promoting illegal gambling Tuesday before Wrangell First District Magistrate Chris Ellis.
Brock, a prominent member of the local community, had been charged with promoting Texas Hold ‘em games for cash prizes at American Legion Post #6. The charges are Class A misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in prison for each upon conviction, according to Alaska statutes. The offense dates listed on the criminal complaint range from Feb. 18, 2009 to Feb. 10, 2010.
Court officials had originally scheduled the arraignment for 10 a.m., but it was postponed until the afternoon in part because Brock was returning from travel and had suffered a stroke in August, according to Michael Nash, her defense attorney.
The case now moves toward a trial date, to be determined at an April 21 calendar call.
Brock’s lawyer has called her motives unimpeachable. Calls and e-mails to prosecuting attorneys for the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, which is the prosecuting agency, were unreturned as of press time. The criminal complaint alleges Brock admitted to the promoting of Texas Hold ‘em.
Department of Revenue Investigator Heikkila referred calls to criminal prosecutor Lisa Kelley and Department of Revenue civil attorney Todd Araujo, neither of whom responded in time for publication.
In addition to the criminal portion of the complaint, levied only against Brock, a civil component is developing. The Sentinel obtained a copy of a State of Alaska Department of Revenue Tax Division Gaming Unit Notice of Violation.
The notice lists 25 violations alleged to have occurred at the Legion in relation to the Bingo, Raffle, and pull-tab licenses held by the Legion. Brock and another Legion employee, Marilyn Mork “used American Legion bingo cards to conduct their own private bingo sessions for friends.” The notice of violation also says that Brock paid herself and Mork bonuses out of the gaming account.
An additional count alleges “The Wrangell American Legion managers, board members and staff allowed several gaming statute and regulation violations to occur do to their negligence and lack of due diligence in establishing and ensuring proper checks and balances for their gaming activities,” according to the notice. “This is in spite of several complaints and concerns presented to the organization.”
The remaining 22 violations name only Brock, and range from using “American Legion bingo cards to conduct their own private bingo sessions for friends” to giving “inside information regarding pull-tab prizes left in games to pull-tab players.”
“Based on the number and seriousness of the violations committed by the Wrangell American Legion, the Department will suspend the Wrangell American Legion’s charitable gaming permit,” the complaint says.
Contacted for comment, Rich Rhodes, who was sent a copy of the notice on Feb. 12, 2014, read a statement from the Legion membership, drafted by the post’s executive committee.
“It is the belief of the officers of Post 6 of the American Legion that each violation had extenuating circumstances and that no incident was done with intent to do criminal behavior or to circumvent any gaming procedure,” he said. “We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding and have immediately corrected any violation immediately upon becoming aware of (the) violation.”
“We feel that for such penalties some three years after the investigation began and more than two and a half years after corrections have been made is excessive,” Rhodes added.
Post officers have filed a request for an appeal, which will result in a hearing, Rhodes said.