A Missouri man enjoyed a months-long gambling spree in Missouri and Nevada in 2020-21. Problem was, it wasn’t his money he was gambling with. The Missouri fraud scheme involved a man gambling away $5.5 million.
Online gambling is still not permitted in Missouri. Lawmakers, however, continue to work on legislation to allow Missouri sports betting, which could include wagering online.
If you happened to pop into an eastern Missouri casino late in 2022, you may not have noticed one particular high roller. He was a gambler from Fenton, a town of right around 4,000 people. His business? Software. His name? Harish Sunkara.
As pedestrian as Sunkara’s story sounds, it was quite the opposite. What you likely didn’t know is that Sunkara was in the middle of an epic months-long gambling bender in which he allegedly bet $5.5 million.
“Harish Sunkara lured investors with false promises of a low-risk, high-return investment, when all he did was steal their money,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg said in a DOJ press release.
Sunkara pleaded guilty earlier this month to two counts of aggravated identity theft. He faces up to two years in prison for each charge and fines of up to $250,000.
Sunkara allegedly lied about business contracts
Sunkara owns Pace Solutions, an IT services and consulting firm based in St. Louis. The company became the focal point for a series of financial crimes, according to the DOJ. From September 2020 to November 2021, Sunkara told potential investors that business was booming. He said his company had won sizeable contracts with Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Pace Solutions did win a contract with the airport … for $49,500. However, Sunkara allegedly altered and forged older contracts with the airport “to convince investors he’d won far larger contracts,” the DOJ press release noted.
Sunkara used the forged documents to convince investors he secured contracts ranging from $750,000 to $950,000. Those eye-popping numbers garnered several considerable investments, ranging from $100,000 to $645,000.
Rather than channeling the money to his business, he used it to gamble in Missouri and Nevada, the DOJ said.
“Sunkara did not use the money on the fictitious business venture, however. On multiple occasions when investors wired him money, he sent all or part of it to Las Vegas casinos. Between 2020 and 2021, Sunkara spent at least $5.5 million at casinos in eastern Missouri and Nevada.”
Sunkara admitted to squandering $1.1 million. The DOJ release did not provide details about how or when Sunkara got the money for his $5.5 million gambling spree. He will be sentenced on Nov. 1.
Not much is known about Sunkara outside of what the DOJ’s release revealed. He is not listed among the employees on Pace Solutions’ LinkedIn page. The company’s website is no longer active. It was up and running in early-2022, according to Archive.org. Google lists the business as “Temporarily Closed.”
Illegal gambling a problem in Missouri
Sunkara’s case is one of many illegal gambling fiascos in The Show Me State. This past month, the Missouri State Highway Patrol found seven casino-style slot machines in a Neosho convenience store.
In November, authorities destroyed five casino-style machines found in a Platte City convenience store. At the time, there were roughly two dozen pending misdemeanor cases related to video gaming terminals.