Portsmith Judge Expresses Frustration as Rivers Casino Embezzlement Case Against Employees Faces Delays


Posted on: November 2, 2023, 10:10h.

Last updated on: November 2, 2023, 04:22h.

Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Douglas Ottinger expressed frustration with state prosecutors for their delay in preparing their case against two plaintiffs charged with embezzling money from Rivers Casino.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth Virginia
Former count room employees at Rivers Casino Portsmouth allegedly stole nearly $14K in cash from the Virginia business. Marcus Baker, 36, and Joshua Thompson, 29, are facing a felony count each of embezzlement. (Image: 13 News Now)

Rivers Casino Portsmouth, the first licensed and permanent casino in the Commonwealth, found itself dealing with an embezzlement scheme shortly after its opening, allegedly involving two newly hired workers.

According to Rivers Portsmouth security, employees Marcus Baker, 36, and Joshua Thompson, 29, were caught stealing money from the casino’s count room, where large amounts of cash are handled and reported.

Law enforcement investigations revealed that Baker and Thompson stole nearly $14K in cash during their shifts.

The state has charged Baker and Thompson with felony embezzlement for funds exceeding $1,000. However, the state’s prosecutors are facing challenges in assembling witnesses for the case.

Frustrated Judge

During the preliminary hearing, Judge Douglas Ottinger expressed his frustration with attorney Lynette Hill, representing the state, for the commonwealth’s struggles in finding witnesses for the trial.

One witness sent a letter to the judge, expressing fear to testify and her unsuccessful attempts to communicate with Hill.

“Who would blame her? You have to do better than this,” Ottinger told Hill. “This blows my mind as a former prosecutor. Don’t you have investigators?”

Judge Ottinger criticized Hill’s shortcomings and emphasized the proximity of the witnesses to the casino.

Hill is a deputy attorney in Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales’ office. Morales issued a statement in response to Ottinger, assuring that the office is committed to justice and the safety of witnesses.

Case Postponed

Judge Ottinger granted the Portsmouth prosecutors about two months to gather their witnesses, postponing the next preliminary hearing to January 5, 2024.

Baker and Thompson have been released on their personal recognizance.

Rivers Casino Portsmouth has generated approximately $183.7 million in revenue from gamblers this year. The casino features 1,461 slot machines, 81 table games, and a BetRivers Sportsbook.

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