A one-time South Dakota casino employee who faced up to 20 years in prison got off with a five-month sentence this week in a plot to exchange players club points for prescription pain killers.
Candace Crow Ghost, 42, of Fort Yates, North Dakota, was sentenced to 160 days by federal Judge Charles B. Kornmann on a single charge of felony theft by an employee of an Indian gaming institution. A second charge, distribution of a controlled substance, was dropped in exchange for her pleading guilty to the remaining count.
Crow Ghost will also have to pay part of $5,301 in restitution to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Grand River Casino in Mobridge. She embezzled more than $5,000 from the venue, according to South Dakota US Attorney Ron Parsons.
The maximum fine she faced was $1 million. Other defendants in the case will pay the balance of the $5,301.
Crow Ghost will additionally be placed on supervised release for two years. In sentencing her, the judge considered that she spent time in rehabilitation and was already held in custody, according to the Aberdeen News.
She was indicted by a federal grand jury in March for distributing Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. These are both opioids.
Hired as Casino Marketing Director
In October 2016, she started working as marketing director for the Grand River Casino. A short time later, in December, she began the alleged scheme, and it lasted until March 2017, when she was caught and fired, prosecutors said.
As part of her job, she had the authority to adjust points on players club reward cards. Points could be redeemed at the rate of 100 points for $1, court documents said.
She started to add points to the player cards belonging to the seller of the pain meds, then let them redeem the points for cash. In total, she rewarded the participants $4,260, equal to 426,000 points, and comped them over $1,000 worth of meals or hotel rooms, court documents said.
She paid $25 for each 10 mg pill of Oxycodone, $15 for each 10 mg pill of Hydrocodone, and $10 for each 5 mg pill of Hydrocodone, court documents said.
Pills Exchanged in Unsupervised Casino Location
Each of the participants would come to the casino with their pills and would message Crow Ghost. She would meet them on the gaming floor, and direct them to a location where there were no security cameras. They would then hand her the pills.
In exchange, she would get the participants a voucher with increased points. They would cash the voucher at a cashier’s window.
Following an investigation by the casino and federal officials, Grand River Casino eventually banned 10 people allegedly involved in the plot. In August, Crow Ghost admitted her involvement in the scheme.
“The Defendant acknowledges that she did not have authorization to adjust player points for pills and knew she was converting casino monies to her own use and/or her for her own benefit,” said a statement signed by Crow Ghost and attorneys involved in the case.
Crow Ghost’s attorney, Randy Turner, argued she was addicted to painkillers, the Aberdeen News said. She was prescribed the medication after injuries from a car crash when she was a teenager.
Crow Ghost completed an in-patient treatment program in Bismarck, North Dakota, the newspaper added.