$108,000 gambling loss led to theft, prison

Greg Smith

Michael Robey of Putnam is one of a growing number of people to fall prey to the lure of casino gambling and land in prison as a result, according to a New London Superior Court judge.

Robey, 47, the former general manager at Toyota of Colchester and a confessed compulsive gambler, was sentenced Wednesday to seven months in prison for his role in the embezzlement of nearly $300,000 from the car dealership.

"This case is a tragedy," said Robey's attorney, Ronald Stevens. "He's not a druggie, he's not a drinker. He was recently introduced to gambling. He lost all judgment and control and gambling took over his life. He was going to win big and pay it back."

The desire to gamble and recoup loses, along with remorse and regret, is a sign of a compulsive gambler, according to Robey's counselor, Cheryl Molina.

Available records show Robey lost more than $108,000 in just eight months in 2005 in slot machines at Mohegan Sun.

State police in Colchester, during the course of their investigation, found Robey authorized 15 company checks and worked with his girlfriend, Lisa Muise, and other Toyota employees to enlist family and friends to cash them. Missing funds allegedly were covered up by shifting money around in customer accounts.

Muise faces up to 18 months in prison Sept. 27 when she is sentenced.

State prosecutor John Gravalec-Pannone Wednesday recommended Robey serve 15 months in prison, saying a message needed to be sent that the cost of stealing, even if it's due to a gambling problem, is jail.

Judge Susan B. Handy acknowledges Robey's addiction as a growing problem in the area.

"It's a tragedy on many levels, unfortunately a tragedy not unlike others that I see in this courtroom on a daily basis," Handy said.

Noting the geographical convenience of two local casinos, Handy said it's easy for someone to go and lose money.

"And that's fine," Handy said. "As long as it's their own money."

While she considered Robey a "good candidate for rehabilitation," she said her concern lay with the fact so many other people were drawn into the scheme. A total of 12 people were charged.

"This was a well-planned and well-thought-out scheme," Handy said.

Robey's sister, Billie Gaudreau, spoke on his behalf.

"I've watched my brother beat himself up every day for what he's done," said Gaudreau, whose words brought her brother to tears. "We will continue to love and support Michael before and after this difficult time."

Handy ordered Robey to split $58,582 in restitution among three others with alleged lead roles in the scheme. The insurance company, which paid 80 percent of the losses, could seek restitution in civil court.

AT A GLANCE

Michael Robey gambled away $108,017 from January through August 2005 on slot machines at Mohegan Sun. Here is a monthly breakdown of his losses:

January $5,745

February $16,584

March $14,047

April $23,210

May $18,264

June $4,858

July $16,808

August $8,501

Total $108,017

Source: Mohegan Sun

OTHER GAMBLING RELATED CRIMES

- Michael Robey, 47, the former general manager of Toyota of Colchester was sentenced Wednesday to five years, suspended after seven months in prison, and five years of probation. He pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny.

- Lisa Muise, 40, faces more than a year in prison Sept. 27, when she is sentenced in New London Superior Court. She has pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny and remains held on $150,000 bond.

- Wilfredo "Freddy" Figueroa, a former Scion manager, pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny and remains held on $100,000 bond. He will be sentenced Sept. 28 in New London Superior Court.

- Orrin "Danny" Alford, former finance manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny. Free on $100,000 bail, his case is pending on the trial list.

Reach Greg Smith of the Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin at 860-425-4219 or gasmith@norwichbulletin.com.