Woman seeks trial delay in Mountaineer Casino thefts

WHEELING – A Virginia woman charged with embezzling $1.2 million in horse racing funds from a West Virginia casino and racetrack during at least five years wants her February trial delayed.

Anita Ambler of Reva, Va., filed a motion with U.S. District Court in Wheeling on Monday for a postponement. She’s charged with 21 counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and six counts of using criminal proceeds for a transaction.

The thefts from the horsemen’s fund at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester allegedly occurred between 2005 and 2010, but weren’t discovered until Ambler quit and an audit was conducted.

Public defender Brendan Leary calls the charges a “complex, transaction-intensive, white-collar fraud case,” and argues in the court filing that he needs more time to investigate and to locate and interview witnesses. Those witnesses include former employees of Mountaineer and unidentified associates of Ambler.

Because the alleged thefts occurred over several years, Leary said finding witnesses is a challenge.

Prosecutors say Ambler covered her thefts by making fake entries in Mountaineer’s accounting system, and that she spent about $200,000 of the money on a home and 5 acres in Virginia.

Leary says Amber is also still missing documents critical to her defense. In November, she asked prosecutors to provide evidence about the operations of the Mountaineer Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and an audit report conducted by an outside firm.

She has yet to receive those documents, Leary said.

“Ms. Ambler’s ability to present a viable and vigorous defense is compromised without this supplemental discovery,” Leary wrote, and the government has indicated that it, too, may need more time.

Leary also noted he has a scheduling conflict with another trial on Feb. 5.

He said prosecutors don’t oppose a delay, so he’s requesting trial dates in late April or early May.