Woman accused of illegal Facebook gambling faces 12 charges

A Minnesota woman is facing misdemeanor charges after she was accused of running illegal raffles on Facebook.

A Minnesota woman is facing misdemeanor charges after she was accused of running illegal raffles on Facebook.

AP

A Minnesota woman is facing 12 misdemeanor gambling charges after police say she ran illegal Facebook raffles claiming they were for charity, according to authorities.

Between April 24, 2021, and Feb. 15, 2022, the woman received payments from 200 different participants, totaling $117,723.57, a criminal complaint says.

On April 13, 2021, the Minnesota Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) received a complaint from the state’s Gambling Control Board (GCB) that the woman was using a Facebook page called “Iron Range Razzles” to hold illegal raffles, according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators said the woman would tell people they could purchase numbered spots for the chance to win “brand new items” at a discounted price. The winners were then picked randomly.

The woman also allegedly made a post telling participants how to send money, saying, “VENMO PAYMENTS NEED TO HAVE AN EMOJI IN THE DESCRIPTION, not raffle please. I was informed they may lock the account because they may worry about it being gambling,” the complaint says.

McClatchy News reached out to the woman’s attorney on Sept. 14, but he declined to comment on the case.

Investigators said they spoke with the woman a few days after receiving the complaint and explained to her that what she was doing was illegal. They suggested she replace the “chance” element of the contests with a “skill” element.

The woman said she thought the raffles were legal because she donated the proceeds to a local charity, according to the complaint. However, investigators told her only a charitable organization could legally conduct the raffles. The woman told the investigators she would work with the charity to get their 501(c)3 status so they could hold raffles, the complaint says.

However, investigators say they later spoke with the founder of the charity, who said the woman only made one donation. The woman told the founder she would look into legal requirements for the charity to hold raffles but the founder never heard from her again.

Investigators say after they spoke with the woman in April, they closed the investigation as an “educational matter.” But, seven months later, they received another complaint on Nov. 24 that the woman was holding another raffle.

The woman posted on Facebook that she was “selling 100 tickets at $120 per ticket for a chance to win” a special edition ATV, the complaint says. She said she would be donating $1,000 to a veteran’s event.

Investigators said they spoke to a board member for the event, who said he knew the woman but she was never given permission to use the organization as part of her raffle.

In December, investigators spoke with the woman again, and she first denied that she held another raffle but then admitted she used the money to pay off a loan on the ATV, the complaint says.

After speaking with investigators, the complaint says the woman sent an email to them saying, “I’m sorry and I just thought if profit was given to chairing (sic) it was considered charitable gambling. You clarified all that yesterday. What can I do to avoid being in trouble here? I feel sick about this!”

But investigators later conducted a warrant on the woman’s Facebook account and said they found that hours before she sent that email, she created a new, private Facebook group to hold her raffles. Investigators said she continued to hold raffles on that page for her own profit through February 2022.

Investigators said they were able to recover some records but some of her posts were deleted.

The woman is due in court on Oct. 9

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Jennifer Rodriguez is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the Central and Midwest regions. She joined McClatchy in 2023 after covering local news in Youngstown, Ohio, for over six years. Jennifer has made several achievements in her journalism career, including receiving the Robert R. Hare Award in English, the Emerging Leader Justice and Equality Award, the Regional Edward R. Murrow Award and the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award.