Atlantic City Casino Unlawful Arrests Results in Court Victory for Plaintiffs

Posted on: December 28, 2021, 08:43h. 

Last updated on: December 28, 2021, 09:56h.

Atlantic City casino arrests in November 2017 at the Golden Nugget have resulted in two men winning a court case against New Jersey State Police.

Atlantic City casino arrest Golden Nugget
The Golden Nugget Atlantic City casino resort was the site of unlawful arrests in November of 2017. A federal judge ruled in favor of two men from Maryland who claimed they were wrongly arrested. (Image: Shutterstock)

Lawrence Mills and Daniel Chun of Maryland visited the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City in November of 2017. Chun made several $1,000 cash deposits at the casino cage for his newly registered Golden Nugget iGaming account.

A compliance officer at the Marina District casino thought that was rather suspicious, and notified state regulators. Internet gaming accounts in New Jersey can be funded online with debit cards.

The State Police Casino Gaming Bureau responded to the Golden Nugget alert by sending three troopers. Detective Sgts. Richard Wheeler, Carl Smallwood, and Lance Moorhouse later arrested Mills and Chun.

In their legal complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that they were violently detained while walking to their car in the casino’s parking garage. The lawsuit contended that the two were “slammed from behind against the car door.”

Illegal Arrest

State police records detail that the officers arrested Mills and Chun because of their alleged involvement “in some kind of scam.” Chun told police that he was at the Golden Nugget “to make money from the casino.”

Mills explained that he had loaned money to Chun, who was gambling online. Federal Judge Harvey Bartle in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in a summary judgment dated December 20 that their arrests were unwarranted.

The searches of Mills and Chun incident to their unlawful arrests were therefore also violations of their Fourth Amendment rights,” the judge wrote in his Dec. 20 ruling. Bartle added that the suspects were “put on the ground in handcuffs without explanation.”

A laptop and cellphone seized in the arrest turned up no evidence to suggest criminal activity. Bartle wrote in his 11-page judgment that the officers lacked probable cause for the apprehensions.

“Most who come through a casino’s doors hope to make money, however unlucky they may end up being,” the judge concluded.

Casino Probable Cause

Bartle detailed the process of the Golden Nugget reporting the suspicious financial activity to state officials. The judge explains that casino surveillance manager Virginia Carr completed a suspicious report on the morning of November 2, 2017.

Carr reported that within a roughly six-hour period, six cash deposits of $1,000 each were made to iGaming accounts at the Golden Nugget. Carr did not speak with law enforcement or the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement after the filing.

Bartle clarifies that it is up to the State Police officer on duty to determine whether to follow up on a suspicious activity alarm with a phone call or visit to the casino. In this instance, the judge says Wheeler decided to pay a visit to the casino to investigate the matter further.

Wheeler and Smallwood observed Chun and Mills gambling online in the resort’s Wine & WiFi Lounge, which has since permanently closed. The officers subsequently followed the two to their vehicle in the parking garage where the arrests were conducted.

Determining there was no probable cause, Bartle issued a summary judgment in favor of Mills and Chun against Wheeler. A summary judgment is a decision made based on statements and evidence without going to a court trial.

The judgment did not specify damages or a settlement arrangement.