Friday, March 22, 2013

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Attorney General, Anderson County DA Obtain Guilty Pleas in North Texas Illegal Gambling Scheme

PALESTINE -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe today announced that senior executives with Haltom City-based HEST Technologies Inc. have pleaded guilty to felony money laundering and engaging in organized criminal activity. The HEST Technologies headquarters were raided in August 2012 in a joint operation led by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Anderson County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office and the Dallas Police Department.

Appearing today before a state district judge in Anderson County, HEST Technologies Inc., the corporation, pleaded guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity for gambling offenses and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and dissolve within one year. HEST President Chris Canard pleaded guilty to money laundering and engaging in organized criminal activity for gambling offenses and was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and serve five years of community supervision. Robert Houchin Sr. also pleaded guilty to money laundering and engaging in organized criminal activity for gambling offenses and was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and serve five years of community supervision. Robert Houchin Jr. and Andrea Geist executed sworn statements admitting guilt of the gambling offenses and entered into 12-month agreements requiring them to avoid criminal activity. Shannon Canard entered into a pretrial diversion agreement which included a statement admitting guilt of the gambling-related offenses and a five year agreement requiring her to avoid criminal activity.

Under the plea agreements, all parties are barred from engaging in any gambling operations in Texas for the life of their probation terms. Further, multiple agreed asset forfeiture orders will be filed next week in Tarrant County, resulting in the forfeiture of all HEST-owned equipment that was seized from two Tarrant County offices in August, as well as nearly $1.5 million in illegal gambling proceeds. The proceeds will be distributed among the law enforcement agencies that collaborated on the investigation.

HEST Technologies’ promotional materials claimed that they develop “sweepstakes promotional systems.” However, the so-called “sweepstakes” systems actually constituted an illegal lottery using gambling devices.

Today’s pleas and convictions follow recent nationwide activity targeting illegal gambling operations using similar activity and actors. These include a statewide raid in Florida, multiple convictions for gambling offenses in Minnesota in a case involving a connection to HEST, and a decision by an Ohio Court of Appeals upholding jury trial convictions for gambling offenses.

In addition to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Tarrant and Anderson County Criminal District Attorney’s Offices and the Dallas Police Department, the following agencies participated in the HEST investigation:

• Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office
• U.S. Secret Service
• FBI’s Dallas and Tyler offices
• Internal Revenue Service’s office in Dallas

Assistance was also provided by the California Department of Justice, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, the Massachusetts State Police and the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in Virginia Beach.