*I'd be careful about using that word these days - seldom does a story get reported that's an undeniable scoop. Chances are, bits and pieces have been published before. Sometimes, the whole thing. This morning, The Wrap posted an impressive sounding account of the Las Vegas gambling debts that were owed by Hollywood producer/financier David Bergstein, specifically mentioning his arrest in Florida last year. The piece was labeled an exclusive.
Bergstein was picked up Nov. 29, 2009, on a fugitive warrant in the port of Cape Canaveral -- after returning from a Disney cruise -- and jailed on $3.7 million bond by the Brevard County, Florida, Sheriff's Department, according to a copy of the arrest notice obtained by TheWrap. By the next afternoon, he had walked free. "Fraud/Insuff. Funds," the arrest records noted. Until now, Bergstein was widely known to have stiffed only the Mandalay, which has doggedly pursued him in civil court for repayment of $1 million. But the felony fraud charges stemmed from bad checks that Bergstein allegedly floated at a widening circle of casinos.
The Florida arrest does appear to be news. But the part about Bergstein's activities at casinos had been covered in a story by the Daily Journal on May 11.
A Las Vegas prosecutor has filed criminal charges and an arrest warrant against Bergstein over more than $2 million in unpaid gambling debts. According to the Clark County District Attorney, Bergstein didn't know when to hold 'em or fold 'em, but figured out when to walk away and when to run. The office filed the criminal complaint against Bergstein in April 2009, stemming from debts incurred at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel and Casino and the Venetian Resort and Casino in the spring of 2008.
In an interview, Bergstein said he's working with the district attorney's office to repay the debts and that the matter should be resolved within the next 30 days. He said that the total debt amount was "enormously exaggerated" because the charges "were allowed to go into default" and "weren't defended properly" by his former in-house lawyer, whom he is suing for breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence. The debts in question come from what are known as markers, or loans that people can obtain in cash or gaming chips by opening a credit line with a casino. If a marker is not paid back on time - usually about a month after it's first issued - a casino can draw money directly from the borrower's bank account.
I emailed Wrap ME Lew Harris about the exclusive tag and he responded: "The arrest -- which is the crux of the story and was the point of headline -- has not been covered before and is indeed an exclusive." That's kind of a stretch - the piece reads as if the whole thing - not just the arrest - was new. Clearly, it wasn't. At the least, The Wrap should have credited the Daily Journal, which does not appear online and therefore gets very little attention, even when it breaks stories. And it breaks quite a few.
*Somebody pointed out a paragraph in that same Daily Journal story:
Clark County Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski, head of the office's bad check division, said Bergstein had been arrested in Florida in connection with the charges after a warrant was issued last spring, but was released after agreeing to a repayment plan.
The Wrap's story has a few more details on the arrest, but the Daily Journal reported the basic information first.
**Just heard back from Lew Harris. They've taken the "exclusive" off the story. Reporter hadn't seen the Daily Journal story, which is not available online.