Testimony heard in bookkeeper’s trial

WHEELING – U.S. District Court officials seated a jury Monday and heard testimony in the trial of Anita Ambler, the former bookkeeper accused of embezzling $1.3 million from Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort over several years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Bernard said Ambler, 48, of Virginia wrote checks on dormant accounts from the Horseman’s Purse Account, which included funds deposited by individual horsemen as well as proceeds from race winnings.

Ambler’s attorney, Joseph Blaylock, told jurors those account holders will testify they do not know and have never seen Ambler and are not going to point the finger at her.

Rose Mary Williams, Mountaineer director of racing, testified Ambler had unfettered access to the funds in the horsemen’s account. She also had access to cash deposited daily – as much as $100,000, Williams said.

Track officials discovered financial discrepancies after Ambler resigned, reportedly for another job in Virginia. Williams asked for an internal audit, but Ambler never made herself available. The finances have been reconciled since Ambler’s departure, and no additional discrepancies have appeared, Williams testified.

Under questioning from Ambler’s other attorney, Federal Public Defender Brendan Leary, Williams admitted she authorized many of the checks and acknowledged all of Ambler’s performance reviews were satisfactory.

FBI Special Agent Edward Ryan interviewed Ambler and testified that she admitted to writing checks from the horsemen’s account to family members. She also admitted to having her acquaintances cash checks from the account, with those people later returning the money to Ambler, according to Ryan.

Ryan admitted to Leary, however, that Ambler said she directly deposited her own money, between $350,000 and $375,000, into the horsemen’s account. Leary mentioned that Ambler received that money from a settlement, before the prosecution objected to his questioning. Judge Frederick P. Stamp granted the objection.

Testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m. today.