Sunday, January 14, 2007

Florida Woman Arrested for Embezzling $1.58 Million to Play Online Poker... Or Maybe Not

Sometimes good stories can be confusing, and the facts get muddied before they've really had a chance to spread. Such is the case with the recent sad case of addicted gambler Donna Duffer, a 57-year-old woman who until not too long ago was also the Palm Beach County (Florida) Tourist Convention Bureau controller.

It seems that Duffer took advantage of a flawed system to write herself something like 220 checks to herself from the Palm Beach County coffers, and was discovered only when the county, curiously strapped for cash, was unable to pay one of its own outstanding tax bills. If I've read the story correctly, from its roots last November, it appears that Duffer's alleged embezzlement occurred over a span of three years prior to its discovery. Duffer (pictured at right), spent all the money on various online gambling websites.

It's a sad, cautionary tale, neither the first nor last to cross our collective poker path. But did it really? That's where it gets interesting.

See, I first encountered the story through a Google search, which stumbled upon one of those badly written rewrites that appears at the ever-repugnant, a site which exists only by rewriting other peoples' efforts... and doing a damn shitty job of it as well. So I knew there had to be an earlier source, and sure enough there was, a piece in the news section of, which now seems to be a primary topic for that other site's plagiaristic efforts.

But what's curious is that of all the thousands of pieces that mention the "Donna Duffer" story, is the only one that specifically refers to "online poker" instead of "online gambling," and worse, there's absolutely no specifics given for the switch. Having lots of accounts at online sites --- as Duffer and her lawyer have readily admitted to --- does not mean that the sites were poker sites. Video slots and sportsbook sites have also existed for the same timeframe.

While poker is certainly a possibility, it seems more likely that this is an online-slots junkie run amok. As such, it makes's rephrasing of the story highly questionable, especially considering the utter lack of supporting evidence for their assertion. It seems as though someone, somewhere, would have noticed someone dropping $1.6 million within the online poker world, since the vast majority of online players at the larger stakes are well known, if only through screen names. A continually bleeding away of that type of loot should have caused at least some semi-anonymous forum poster to say "Ha-ha, look at this rich fish," and show some data-mined stats showing the loss.

But that's nowhere, either. So what's up with the spin, Why tie a negative story into the poker world when there's no logical reason to do so? Are you that f$#(^@% desperate for a few more web-page hits?

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