Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Authorities Link Arrest Last Year to Casino Gang Oklahoma Man Fled Bond from E. St. Louis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Authorities Link Arrest Last Year to Casino Gang Oklahoma Man Fled Bond from E. St. Louis

Article excerpt

A nationwide network of thieves that federal investigators say was broken with recent arrests at the Alton Belle may have sent a trainee to the Casino Queen in East St. Louis where he was arrested in June.

Thomas E. Chasteen, 33, of Okmulgee, Okla., disappeared after posting a $2,000 cash bond for his arrest on the Casino Queen. Police and agents for the Illinois Gaming Board said Friday that they suspect he was connected to the group believed to have used a high-tech gadget to fool slot machines into big payoffs at casinos across the country and in the Bahamas.

The group is believed to have hit three of the casinos in the St. Louis area.

The reputed leader - Orville Walker "Chuck" Durham, 40, of Broken Arrow, Okla. - is in the Madison County Jail with two people believed to be accomplices. Authorities arrested them outside the Alton Belle March 8. They are being held on federal racketeering charges and state gambling charges.

Surveillance cameras on the Belle taped what authorities say is their use of an electronic device to pump big jackpots out of slot machines.

On Friday, Durham got a one-week delay in his arraignment in Madison County so he could hire an attorney.

The other two pleaded innocent and were represented by Assistant Public Defender Tom Jackstadt. They are a woman described as Durham's girlfriend, Dana Ann Woods, 32, of Grafton, and Fred J. Comfort III, 35, of Bartlesville, Okla.

All three are charged in Madison County with possession of an illegal gambling device and burglary.

They are charged in federal court in East St. Louis with interstate travel in aid of racketeering for conducting illegal gambling aboard a casino riverboat. A federal prosecutor said the investigation was continuing.

According to Lt. J.W. Cowan of the East St. Louis police, Chasteen was charged with violating the state's riverboat gambling act when he was arrested June 2 on the Casino Queen. …

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