Two Ohio brothers are facing money laundering charges after they allegedly took drug money and gambled it at a West Virginia casino.
The two men, Robert Jermele Atkinson and Micah A. Atkinson, reportedly placed multiple sports bets of more than $10,000 at Mountaineer Casino in Hancock County. The pair were indicted on money laundering charges on Oct. 5.
The men are accused of using Mexican drug cartel money
The money originally came through the work of Robert Atkinson, prosecutors say. In addition to his charges in this investigation, the 41-year-old is facing charges involving a cocaine pipeline that funneled roughly $13 million from Cleveland to a Mexican drug cartel.
In this instance, the prosecution alleged that Robert Atkinson worked with a man named Christopher Ficklin to move the cocaine. Prosecutors say Ficklin bought hundreds of pounds of cocaine from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel each month from 2017 to 2021.
Ficklin is accused of handing off large quantities of that cocaine to his lower-level drug dealers, who authorities say included Robert Atkinson. Police say this drug pipeline moved more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine into Cleveland in just a few years.
In November 2020, police arrested Robert Atkinson. He had 20 pounds of cocaine on him at the time, according to court records.
The brothers placed sports bets at Mountaineer Casino
Once Robert Atkinson collected his money, he apparently figured he’d be able to watch it grow by placing sports bets at Mountaineer Casino. He and his brother Micah placed two bets in September and October 2020. One bet totaled $20,000, and the other came out to $13,500.
When police arrested Robert Atkinson, his brother decided to take over the sports betting operation, authorities say.
Micah Atkinson allegedly took part of his brother’s money and went to the casino, placing $23,000 on a game. He ended up winning $52,900 and brought the money back to Cleveland, where he stashed the winnings in a safety deposit box, according to authorities.
What’s next for the Ohio brothers?
Both Atkinson brothers face up to 10 years in prison. They are each looking at a $250,000 fine in connection with their charges, too.
Robert Atkinson pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of drug dealing that arose from his involvement in the cocaine ring. He’s currently facing five years in prison once he is sentenced later in November.
This isn’t the first case involving laundering money through casino gambling
Earlier this summer, a drug kingpin from Massachusetts was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for a variety of offenses, including money laundering. A judge handed his mother nine years in prison for money laundering as well.
Vincent “Fatz” Caruso and his mother Laurie Caruso placed more than 150 cash sports bets between February and June of 2021. That money came from Vincent Caruso’s drug operation. The two were careful to place bets of less than $10,000, since that mark is when casinos must report cash transactions to financial authorities, court documents show.
Out of the $400,000 the two placed in sports bets at the casino, they lost $20,000. So in total, the pair converted $380,000 from Vincent Caruso’s drug operation into casino winnings.
Vincent Caruso eventually pleaded guilty to manufacturing, distributing, and possessing with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, cocaine, marijuana, and other controlled substances. He also admitted to firearms and robbery charges.