In a case that raises questions about security and financial oversight in Los Angeles County's newest card club, a top officer of the 3-month-old Crystal Park casino in Compton has been arrested and charged with embezzlement in connection with the theft of about $300,000 through a fabricated computerized customer account, according to sources and police records.
Eugene Aragon, 32, who has been the casino's controller virtually since its opening in late October, remains in Los Angeles County Jail on the charge.
Executives of Crystal Park, which was built by Hollywood Park but is operated by an independent company, did not respond to requests for comment.
Compton police on Tuesday would confirm only that they had arrested Aragon and an associate last month. The alleged associate, Jeffrey Platt, 36, was not formally charged and was released pending further investigation. He could not be reached for comment.
Aragon was arraigned Tuesday and returned to jail; his plea could not be immediately learned. He also could not be reached.
One source close to the investigation told The Times that Aragon is suspected of creating a false customer account showing a cash balance of $300,000 in the Crystal Park casino computer system, as well as a paper receipt verifying the deposit.
According to the source, police believe that on Dec. 27 an Aragon confederate allegedly presented the receipt to the casino cashiers and withdrew the entire sum. He received about $240,000 in cash and $60,000 in casino chips, the source said.
Aragon surrendered to Compton police Jan. 9. Platt, whose precise role in the incident could not be learned, surrendered Jan. 23.
Sources say Aragon joined Crystal Park after having worked as the casino controller at Hollywood Park. The job resembles that of an in-house cash auditor or treasurer and does not require professional accounting training or a casino employee license from the state.
Executives at Hollywood Park said they were surprised to learn that Aragon had been accused of an accounting scam. "No incident of this type" occurred during his tenure in Inglewood, said G. Michael Finnigan, chief financial officer of Hollywood Park.
State law prohibits Hollywood Park from maintaining a business interest in the Crystal Park casino beyond that of landlord, for which it is to receive about $39.75 million in lease payments over five years.
But the larger Inglewood-based company does have an indirect interest in Crystal Park's success. That's because Hollywood Park holds an option to take over the gaming license if state law is changed to allow it to operate an off-premises card club.
Hollywood Park executives have long expressed an interest in enhancing their gaming revenues in Southern California by expanding locations and offering slot machines and conventional table games to customers--all currently barred by state law.