A three-year court case against a former baccarat dealer faces collapsing according to reports in the press. The dealer and his accomplice are charged with stealing more than $400,000 from Crown Resorts. The court case may collapse after the Supreme Court of Appeal got its hands on new evidence.
Police received full confessions from the former baccarat croupier, who the court is calling Adam Hoch, in May 2017. His accomplice, Milena Charles, also a pseudonym, confessed her guilt also.
A raid on Charles’ Southbank apartment uncovered a sports bag containing more than $200,000 in cash. Police also discovered $50,000 worth of casino chips. This vast sum was seized under current assets confiscation laws but the accused will get it back if charges are dropped.
The Supreme Court of Appeal learned the casino’s security staff attempted to coerce admissions from the accused. Crown’s investigators held and questioned Hoch for more than three hours, and Charles for more than two hours. They handed them over to the police after the interrogations.
Court Learns Of Threats From the Crown Investigators
Hoch claims threats of a long prison sentence were aimed at him if he didn’t confess. Investigators threatened Charles’ parents and her partner’s parents with serious consequences. Crown’s investigators are all former members of Victoria Police. They claimed they could influence the outcome of the police investigation if the pair admitted their guilt.
One investigator, Manuel Lyberis, said to Hoch, “We are just trying to help you mate. It’s like a get-out-of-jail card and you might only get one opportunity.”
Another investigator said Hoch would “cop the full extent of the law” if he refused to answer questions. A former detective informed Hoch he would ask the police to “treat him alright.”
Hoch worked in Crown’s Mahogany Room, a section of the casino reserved for high rollers. Crown alleges Hoch looked at cards at the baccarat table and told Charles which cards were coming next. Charles won $431,000 over the course of 58 hours between March and May 2017.
The County Court of Victoria heard claims of the tainted confessions in March. The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the decision earlier this week.
Neither the confessions of Hoch or Charles are allowed to be considered by the court. This means charges could be dropped and the case thrown out. Both Hoch and Charles pleaded not guilty despite providing signed confessions to the contrary.
Key Section of an Interview Is Missing
The court heard neither Hoch or Charles wee cautioned or to their right to silence or legal representation. A digital device was used to record the interview with Charles. Wayne Eales was responsible for this device. Approximately one hour of the interview was never recorded, however. Charles claims she was threatened during this unrecorded period. Eales told the court he may have accidentally switched off the device.
County Court Judge Richard Smith ruled in March the Crown’s surveillance team had significantly compromised Hoch and Charles’ admissions. Prosecutor Daniel Porceddu appealed although conceded the Crown case was now significantly weakened.
The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the County Court ruling on July 30. That judgment reads as follows.
“In our view, not only was it open to his Honour (Judge Smith) to exclude the evidence of the police interviews under that section, he was clearly correct to do so. The unfairness was palpable. On his Honour’s unchallenged findings, both respondents believed they were likely to be imprisoned unless the cooperated with police.”
A new hearing is scheduled for October but is unlikely to go ahead. Lawyers for Hoch and Charles are expected to apply to have the trial discontinued at an earlier date.