A prominent Sydney criminal lawyer is standing trial for perverting the course of justice. Michael Croke is caught up in a tangle of lies involving an international gambler blowing $2.5 million cash in Sydney.
Kings Cross solicitor Croke pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice. Croke stands accused of assisting a criminal group to launder significant sums of cash. It is claimed Croke coached the criminals to lie to Australian police when they initially arrested gang members.
Bag of Cash Worth $702,000Triggers Investigation
August 11, 2011 started as an ordinary day for Sydney’s police department, but matters soon turned interesting.
An anonymous phone call alerted the police to a potential gunman in room 3026 of the Hilton Hotel. Officers raced to the scene to discover no firearms, although a bag containing $702,000 was present.
Sean Carolan, a personal trainer from Sydney’s western suburbs, claimed the cash was his. Police seized the huge sum of cash because Carolan didn’t convince them it came from a legitimate source. There aren’t many people in the entire world who carry $702,000 cash with them.
That bag of cash ultimate brought down a drug’s kingpin
International Gambler Unwittingly Launders Cash at Star Casino
Robert Cipriani is an international renowned gambler. Cipriani is also an FBI informant whose evidence resulted in Owen Hanson receiving a 21-year jail sentence.
Hanson was a college football star destined for an illustrious NFL career. How Hanson went from would-be NFL star to drugs barren remains a mystery, but that’s what happened.
Hanson made most of his drug money importing cocaine into Australia. He even bragged to an undercover FBI agent he sold kilos of the drug for more than triple the price he received in the United States. Hanson will give evidence that he used Cipriani to launder cash at Sydney’s Star casino.
Court records from Hanson’s trial revealed he used Cipriani as the perfect mark. Nobody batted an eyelid when Cipriani showed up with plenty of cash. It’s what professional high-stakes gamblers do.
Hanson approached Cipriani and made him a too good to be true offer, which he took anyway. Cipriani was given $1.5 million and told to play blackjack with it. He was to keep whatever he won and return the rest.
Cipriani went on to win approximately $300,000. He kept that cash for himself and received a casino check for more than $1.7 million.
Despite being owed $1.7 million, Hanson was in no rush to get his hands on his money. He said he was travelling and for Cipriani to hold onto the money. Unfortunately, Cipriani flew to Las Vegas and blew all but $200,000 of the cash.
Cipriani played high stakes blackjack until he had a million dollars, which he handed to Hanson in cash. He continued playing, and winning, eventually paying Hanson back in full. It was a strange affair as Cipriani handed over the cash to various different people.
Cipriani Instructed to Lose Up To $600,000
Later that year, Hanson visited Cipriani with $2.5 million stuffed into shoe boxed in suitcases. He instructed Cipriani to gamble with it, informing him he could lose up to $600,000. This is the moment Cipriani claims he realised he was part of a money-laundering scheme.
Cipriani knew he was in over his head but played with the cash anyway. He didn’t stop at a $600,000 lost, he blew the entire $2.5 million in cash at the Star in Sydney. Amazingly, Cipriani lost the $2.5 million in only four hours.
He and Hanson were seen arguing at the casino before Cipriani fled the scene. Police then received the anonymous call about the alleged gunman, leading to the discovery of $702,000 of cash.
Hanson and Craig Haeusler, his Sydney contact, contacted Mr Croke for help to retrieve the seized cash. They told various lies, including Hanson investing in Carolan’s weight-loss business. The authorities were aware of Hanson’s criminal activities and the very mention of his name led them to contact the FBI.
Police Hear a Web of Lies
Police tapped Hanson and Haesler’s phones and listened in as they hatched a plan to retrieve their $702,000 cash.
The pair initially planned to get Sydney businessman Albert Bertini to claim the money was his. Bertini’s company, however, was in the newspapers after going into liquidation.
They turned to Australian rock promoter Andrew McManus who said he’d help in return for $200,000. Solicitor Croke accompanied Hanson and Haeusler to give police interviews. Both lied about McManus lending Hanson the money for a ZZ Top tour.
The jury heard Croke had coached both men as to what to say to police officers. Those men later bragged about giving an Oscar-winning performance to the authorities.
Croke launched a Supreme Court bid to get Hanson’s cash returned. He was heard in the lead up to that case saying he was worried Carolan would not be able to stand intense scrutiny.
The trial continues.