Famous and Infamous Betting Shop Crimes

crime and punishmentBookmakers tend to be in locations that is convenient for most people to visit and place a few wagers on their favourite sports events. And for the most part, that is entirely true. Yet there have also been instances where they have been the focus for criminal activity. Or potentially have just ended up in the line of fire when it comes to crimes being committed. Then again, gambling in general has had quite a history with crime if you take a look back at some of the situations that have arisen in casinos and so on.

This got us thinking about famous and infamous crimes that have been committed within or around betting shops. There are various instances where these establishments have played host to law breaking, so we thought we’d take a closer look at them. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them before while others will be news to your ears. Whatever the case may be, we invite you to take a look at some of these crimes and how they played out.

Ladbrokes Cashier Paid More than £1M to Crime Gang

ladbrokes betting shopA report in 2021 provided an insight into a Ladbrokes cashier who had involved herself in criminal activity from within one of the bookmaker’s shops in Edmonton, London.

Paris Markham, a 22-year-old cashier in the Ladbrokes in question, accepted a total of 22 betting slips made on £90 to £95 tricast bets. Each of these made winnings of between £5,000 and £100,000, and in total, Markham ended up paying out over £1 million in a 3-hour timeframe. Those funds were all handed over to a criminal gang, as she recorded the ineligible betting slips on various horse races as winning ones.

An investigation was conducted into Ms. Markham’s activities, and it was discovered that she had been in collusion with her ex-boyfriend, Aurica Vaduva, age 23, and another man named Daniel Constantin, age 28. This enabled the three of them to acquire the money and blow it all on luxury goods, according to the report from court. Markham admitted to assisting in the scam to defraud her employers, although she made claims that the two others involved threatened her on the street to commit the crime.

Constantin also admitted to the conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.

The funds involved were transferred to the bank accounts of the three parties involved. It was then used in credit transactions, cash withdrawals, foreign currency purchases and the purchase of luxury items, including motor vehicles, according to Corinne Bramwell, prosecutor.

“Ms. Markham’s role at Ladbrokes was as the inside woman, essentially stealing the money from her employer Ladbrokes, disguised as legitimate winnings”, she said. “Mr. Vaduva is a close associate of Daniel Constantin, and significantly, at the time of the offences he was Ms. Markham’s boyfriend”.

It is also noted that the girlfriend of Constantin’s brother Arabela Stoica, as well as an associate of Vaduva, Somaila Radu, were given some of the money from the scam. The two of them were accused of laundering the funds. Stoica denied all allegations placed against her, as did Radu.

The 1992 Attack at the Sean Graham Betting Shop

sean graham betting shop attacked 1992
Keresaspa, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps one of the biggest known crimes associated with betting shops occurred in 1992, when Sean Graham’s bookmakers became the scene of a brutal mass shooting in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), operating as a loyalist paramilitary group, open fire on customers inside the betting shop, utilising an assault rifle and a handgun. The shop stood within a Catholic and Irish nationalist area, and all five civilians killed in the assault were Catholic. Nine other members of the public were also wounded in the shooting.

It didn’t take the UDA long to claim responsibility for the assault, utilising the cover name of the Ulster Freedom Fighters to carry it out. It said that the shooting took place as a sort of retaliation for the Teebane bombing, which had occurred under the Provisional IRA around three weeks prior to it.

However, an investigation taking place later on by the Police Ombudsman discovered that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) had been engaging in collusion with UDA informers who had been involved in the betting shop attack.

Occurring at 2:20 in the afternoon, the assault on the Sean Graham bookies saw two men wearing boiler suits and black balaclavas exit a car on University Avenue and cross over to the shop. The pair entered the bookmaker and fired without specific targets in mind, hitting all 15 of the customers inside. While one opened fire with the assault rifle, the other shot victims with the handgun as they lay on the ground. The two gunmen then fled the scene, speeding off in their car. Five men and boys between the ages of 15 and 66 were fatally wounded, with four dying at the scene and the other surviving until he reached the hospital.

Alongside the collusion uncovered in this attack, 6 other murders were said to have been the result of such activity between the police and the UDA. And while the report made by Marie Anderson, a Police Ombudsman, found no evidence that the shooting at the betting shop was preventable, the full picture is still to come to light. A collection of reports has been put together, which exposes multiple cases of collusion in the 1990s.

The Murder of a Lone Man in a Betting Shop

uk flag lady justice gavelA Ladbrokes betting shop in Morden, south-west London, was the scene of a big crime itself in May of 2013. On the last full day of trading on Friday, May 24 of that year, the shop stayed open until 10pm, being run by manager Andrew Iacovou. The 55-year-old had spent many years operating the betting shop, and knew many of the regulars, who he was friendly with. That Ladbrokes store was open seven-days-a-week, from 8:30 in the morning through to 9pm or 10pm at night. Iacovou chose to work five of those days, and sometimes six, from start to finish. Other than the occasional assistant cashier, he ran it primarily by himself.

And while most of the people entering the betting shop were regulars who he’d known for years, a more recent attendee had been Shafique Aarij, who had a liking for the shop’s electronic gambling machines. On that Friday, Aarij complained about a problem with one of the gaming machines, which led to Iacovou coming out from behind his counter to see what the issue was. Despite the shop closing at 10pm that day, he did not get home to his wife until around midnight, having solved the problem that Aarij had complained about and then emptying all of the machines, which was a nightly process.

The next morning, Iacovou turned up at work at about 8am, meeting up with another colleague from an alternate Ladbrokes who had come for a set of spare keys. Other than this colleague, who left after a brief chat, the manager of the shop wasn’t expecting to see anyone else until around lunchtime when an assistant cashier was scheduled to start. Upon opening the shop that day at 8:30am, his first customer was Shafique Aarij. Carrying a shoulder bag, he instantly went to the gaming machines, and signalled to the manager that there was a problem with it. As Iacovou unlocked the door to his counter, Aarij pushed his way in, grabbed him by his neck and the two engaged in a struggle. This led to Aarij taking a claw hammer from his shoulder bag and striking the betting shop manager over the head with it. Eight more hits were struck, and he then turned his attention to the shop’s safe.

Aarij stole £296 from the shop and wire transferred most of that to Pakistan within 90 minutes of the attack. He was caught by the police, and CCTV footage from the Ladbrokes store captured him looking for money with his victim laying on the floor after the assault. Aarij was jailed for a minimum of 26 years for his crime.

Ladbrokes & Coral Targeted By Fraudsters For £600,000

detective silhouette following footsteps

It was in 2021 that a report revealed four men had involved themselves in fraudulent activity, conning bookmakers out of over £600,000. How did they do this? They utilised laminated money to trick the self-service gaming machines inside the shops. This saw them feed plastic-coated £20 and £50 notes into the machines in order to register a deposit for wagering, while a plastic lead was utilised to yank the note back out prior to it being taken.

The four guilty men, Thomas Wheatcroft, Charlie Shaw, Michael Sadgove-Tarrant, and Paul Hubbold, aged between 33 and 59, committed a total of 168 frauds across the United Kingdom. Targeting different Coral and Ladbrokes shops, the men were caught out after an investigation was conducted by the Special Crime Command unit of the Met Police. The four of them were handed out lifetime bans from betting shops as a part of their sentence.

Police were informed of the issue when staff noticed thousands of pounds had been missing from their game machines during cash-up at the end of a day. CCTV from the different bookmakers displayed the four men involved all wearing the same clothing as they had in each shop. When the police arrested three of the four in Basildon, Essex, they also discovered bags of clothing including 20 baseball caps.

Altogether, the group was responsible for stealing £663,556 from Coral and Ladbrokes betting shops found in, amongst other places, London, Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Essex, Merseyside and the West Midlands. All four pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them, with prison sentences of between one and four years handed out.

Mum-of-Two Orchestrates Armed Robbery

armed robbery

In 2019, it was brought to light that a mum-of-two had cooked up a plot to see an armed robbery take place at the betting shop she worked at in Ramsgate. The occurrence, which happened in 2018, saw invader Tyler McNeill point a fake gun at the manager, 30-year-old Natalie Solari, and scream out that he had a gun and to do as he said.

Of course, terrified, Solari scrambled to put together all the money in the bookmakers, totalling £11,000, and push it onto the counter while McNeill yelled orders at her. Horrified people within the shop could only look on as the manager did as she was told. McNeill then fled from the Coral store, with accomplice Daniel O’Reilly in tow. They were aided by Simon Bennett, who worked as the getaway driver.

Yet while it initially seemed like the three aggressors had been totally responsible for the robbery, detectives actually discovered an altogether different outcome. The mother of two young children, who had never been in trouble with the law, was actually the mastermind of the heist. That mum-of-two? Solari herself. Police discovered ties between her, McNeill and O’Reilly, and instantly became suspicious due to the large sum of cash in the bookies on the day of the theft.

Bookmakers usually urge employees to move money off of the premises every single day, which minimises the chance of such a raid occurring. And while betting shops tend to have multiple employees working behind their desks, Solari was the only one in that day, raising suspicions even more.

Even though she had been quite convincing in her role as terrified employee, she would soon become a prime suspect in the investigation into the robbery. Numerous texts were revealed between Solari, McNeill and O’Reilly, and phone records also revealed that she was the one who set up the getaway car for Bennett.

She denied the crime vehemently but was found guilty on the count of conspiracy to commit robbery during her trial earlier on in the year. McNeill and O’Reilly each pleaded guilty to their part in the offence. Bennett, on the other hand, stood with Solari and denied he had anything to do with it.

Solari was given a 12-year prison sentence, while Bennett received a five-year prison term. McNeill was given an eight-year term to serve, while O’Reilly received seven years in prison.