Grand jury indicts casino boat owners

A married couple now face a second set of federal charges stemming from their operation of the Stardancer fleet.

Published February 1, 2006

The owners of the long-gone Stardancer Casino fleet of gambling boats have been charged with 22 counts of tax evasion and conspiracy, according to federal prosecutors in South Carolina, where the company was based.

Samuel Andrew Gray Sr. and his wife, Marilyn D. Gray, of Duluth, Ga., were accused of conspiracy and fraud last week in an indictment that says they embezzled approximately $162,000 from Stardancer's corporate affiliates.

The couple, who once operated casino boats in Tarpon Springs, Port Richey and Madeira Beach, was originally indicted last August for failure to pay more than $1.1-million in employment taxes for the company's 200 to 300 workers, said Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. Day II. The Grays pleaded not guilty to these charges in September.

The Grays face up to a $10,000 fine and/or five years in prison on each of the 18 tax-related counts, and $250,000 and 20 years prison for each of the four fraud and conspiracy charges added last week.

They were indicted by a federal grand jury in Florence, S.C. The couple's arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 8, Day said.

A call to the Grays' attorney, D. Gray Thomas of Jacksonville, was not returned Tuesday.

One of the boats, the 128-foot El Dorado, operated from the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, where Gray rented space from Ted Billiris.

In 2002, the El Dorado was repossessed and the company's accounts were frozen. The rest of the casino fleet was seized the following year by federal investigators as part of a multiagency probe into one of the Stardancer investors, Ohio banker Mark Steven Miller.

Miller was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for embezzling $49-million from Oakwood Deposit Bank Co. in late 2003, and the Stardancer fleet was auctioned off in an attempt to recoup some of the money lost by the defrauded bank depositors.

A few months after the seizure, Samuel Gray told the Times that he and his employees were unwitting victims of the government investigation and said plans were under way to reopen casino operations at the Sponge Docks.

But documents recovered during the government's raid would eventually show that Stardancer's financial troubles extended beyond the improprieties of the Ohio financier, Day said.

"There aren't any allegations yet as to the relationship between the Grays and Miller," he said.

Day said the current indictment alleges that Samuel Gray Sr., Stardancer's president and CEO, and his wife Marilyn, the executive vice president, used company funds to pay for personal expenses charged to 22 credit cards from 1999 to 2002.

The couple also is accused of using company funds to purchase insurance for their 56-foot Sea Ray yacht.