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Jury acquits NYC men in cheating case

By Karen Florin

Publication: theday.com

Published July 23. 2013 1:00PM   Updated July 23. 2013 11:24PM

A New London jury found two New York City men not guilty Tuesday of conspiracy and larceny in a case involving marked cards in the game of mini-baccarat at Mohegan Sun.

The jury of four men and two women deliberated just over two hours before announcing they had reached a verdict in the case of Leonard Hu, 53, and Hung Lit Leung, 60. Both men left the courthouse, smiling, a short time later.

"What a fascinating insight into the world of casino gambling," said Hu's attorney, Jeremiah Donovan. "That the casino has a formula that can predict how much of your money they can take away was revealing."

Leung's attorney, Conrad Seifert, said, "I'm just real happy with a full acquittal."

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney had alleged the two men conspired with Mohegan Sun dealers to cheat the casino out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in late 2010 and early 2011.

"The jury has spoken, and we respect their verdict," Carney said. "Mr. Seifert and Mr. Donovan did a wonderful job on behalf of their clients."

The trial had begun with a casino official demonstrating the game of mini-baccarat using equipment provided by the casino. It also featured discussions of the alleged percentage advantages the men had gained by betting big when a marked card was about to be played.

The two dealers, Jeian Ng and Bong Gate Louie, had admitted from the witness stand that they used their thumbs to mark the faces of the 7, 8 and 9 cards. They testified with the hope of gaining leniency in their own criminal cases, which are pending in the same court.

Hu and Leung had initially been charged with cheating, conspiracy and larceny, but Judge Arthur C. Hadden on Friday granted the defense attorneys' motion for judgment of acquittal with respect to the cheating charge, because the state law on cheating prohibits anyone from knowingly marking cards but does not clearly prohibit someone from participating in a game with marked cards. None of the evidence showed that Hu or Leung marked the cards.

Ng, a dealer, had testified that he started marking cards after he was approached by a man named "Lee" and that he received payments anonymously in his mailbox. Nobody named Lee was identified through the evidence or called to testify at the trial.

The jurors, who were out of the courtroom when the judge dismissed the cheating charges, only learned they had been dismissed as they prepared to deliberate in the case. Shortly before reaching their verdict, they sent out a note asking, "If the charges of cheating were dismissed, can we find out how to connect conspiracy/larceny without the cheating charge?"

The prosecution had attempted to convince the jury it was not necessary to commit the underlying charge to be involved in the conspiracy. Carney said the men could be linked to the conspiracy through circumstantial evidence, including the amounts of money the two men won as a result of the marked cards.

Mohegan Sun's director of operational accounting, David Thomlinson, testified Friday that based on the casino's "theoretical hold" calculation, Hu was expected to lose $150,000 at mini-baccarat between October 2010 and February 2011 but instead won $468,500. Leung was expected to lose $51,297 during the same period but won $165,370.

Once acquitted, the two men immediately asked that the state return their cellphones, which were seized when they were arrested at the casino in February 2011. The men also are expected to make a claim at an Aug. 1 hearing to the $20,000 in chips that were seized from them.

k.florin@theday.com

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