Corruption & Internet Gambling:
Joplin Councilman BILL SCEARCE
Admitted knowing about Gambling Operation


Councilman Bill Scearce said that he ultimately did know there was illegal gambling going on in an office he was renting to another man in the early 1990s in Joplin, Missouri.

Scearce, who had previously denied (to the Joplin Globe) having any knowledge that a illegal bookmaking operation was being carried out, said he did not know that was to be the use of the office at the time he agreed to rent it to Kenneth Lovett. But, he also said, that he did not do anything about it after he found out.

Scearce called the Globe and said he wanted to clarify earlier statements he made regarding his knowledge of bookmaking operations that had gone on in an office behind one of his former businesses, Olsten Staffing Services.

He is facing an investigation sought by the City Council into a previous FBI probe of gambling in Joplin. The council wants to know whether the FBI had turned up anything about Scearce that might have constituted a violation of council rules. In the same investigation, recent questions about property transactions involving Councilman Mike Woolston, a real estate agent, are to be scrutinized.
Councilman Mike Woolston

Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean said Friday the council probe will continue.

“We’re going to let the investigation play out,” she said. “Maybe earlier it could have been waylaid or suspended but at this point it would behoove us to follow through to make sure everything is on the up and up.”

An FBI probe that started in Joplin in 2008 resulted in the firing of at least one Joplin Police Department officer and the indictments last year of three Joplin men on bookmaking charges.

Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean (left)
Lovett, 73, and William Lisle, 58, were named in a Feb. 29, 2012, indictment with conducting illegal sports betting on the Internet from 2003 until 2011.

Lovett was fined $2,000 and ordered confined to his home for six months. He also was placed on probation for two years. Lisle received a similar sentence as did Clyde A. Jeffries, 77, who now lives in Las Vegas. See:

In court documents filed with the men’s cases, Scearce was listed as having been the person from whom Lovett rented an office in the early 1990s. Lovett was engaged in bookmaking during those years as well, according to court documents.

Scearce was asked by the Globe last year about the nature of his association with Lovett. He said Lovett had rented office space from him and that he was unaware of for what he used the office. He also said he resented the Globe asking him about it. He told the Globe again, in September of this year, that he had no knowledge of what transpired in the office he had rented to Lovett.

On Friday, Scearce said he did not know Lovett would use the office for gambling when he first rented it to him.

“I did later find out he was gambling,” Scearce said. “I did become aware that Kenney was a bookie. There were a lot of people going in and out of there.”

Scearce said he personally never gambled with Lovett. He said when he found out that was what was going on in the rental office, he sought advice from legal advisers. He said he was advised to do nothing and to stay out of Lovett’s office. He said he called a meeting of his staff members and told them “none of us was to have any association with them.”

Scearce said that he was questioned by the FBI at one time in regard to the operation.

“The FBI came and visited with me,” he said. “They asked if I gambled, and I said no, I didn’t. They didn’t charge me with anything.”

Scearce said the FBI also did not charge Lovett with any crime related to the time frame of the office rental, which was from 1991 to 1995. Lovett’s indictment was related to Internet gambling that had taken place since 2008.

Scearce, asked in a second conversation on Friday if he should keep his council seat in view of the changing statements, said, “I just wanted to make sure you understand I didn’t feel I had to do anything about it” when he learned of the gambling. “Why would it have any bearing on my ability to serve on the council? This happened in 1991. I was not on the council when this took place. I was a private citizen.”

The Globe, in September 2012, filed a formal request for the FBI reports regarding the gambling and public corruption probe it had conducted. Those reports have not so far been forthcoming. The council asked that its investigator obtain the reports.

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