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Sebastian Elks' treasurer spent hours gambling at Gold Mine

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of May 23, 2013)
Photo of former treasurer Andrew Simso.

Andy Simso usually was the first customer to arrive when the Gold Mine Arcade in Sebastian opened its doors at 6 a.m., bringing along egg sandwiches for himself and the arcade manager, who said Simso typically ran through $100 at the gambling terminals within the first 15 minutes. 

Sometimes he won, but even then he mostly he fed his winnings back into the simulated Las Vegas-style slot machines. When the cash ran out, he would walk past the Gold Mine’s ATMs and head over to one at the nearby Publix, apparently thinking no one at the Sebastian Elks Lodge – where he was the treasurer – would question withdrawals at a grocery store.

But those ATM withdrawals were questioned by the Elks and now the Sebastian Police Department.  Public Information Officer Steve Marcinik said his department is doing forensic accounting to sort out the lodge’s financial records, but police now say that Simso took $102,000 from the Elks’ account to feed his gambling, a pattern of behavior that began about 10 months ago.

“He was one of my best customers,” said Mary Ann Rivera, a former manager at the Gold Mine Arcade in Sebastian, of 68-year-old Simso.

When Simso hit it big on the machines, he’d tip Rivera handsomely.  But she said Simso could rarely walk away from a machine that paid out big and instead would feed his winnings back into the machine, only to watch the cash dwindle away.

But more times than not, he’d walk out frustrated, only to return again and again throughout the day.

“He’d come four or five times a day,” said Rivera. “Every day.”

Rivera and others at the Gold Mine operation appreciated Simso’s patronage so much that the Gold Mine sponsored one of the holes for the Elks golf tournament fund-raising event.

“He spent a lot of money,” said Rivera – an estimated $500 to $700 a day. 

Rivera said that when he would leave the Gold Mine frustrated, he would go to another arcade to try his luck.

“He is a hell of a nice guy,” said Rivera of the retired firefighter from Connecticut.  “I used to say, ‘God you must be a millionaire.’ I think in his mind, he always thought he was winning. Obviously, he had a gambling problem.”

When contacted for our initial story, the disgraced Elks official bristled at any suggestion of a gambling problem. He suggested that the whole matter of stealing from the Elks would be put to rest when he finishes paying back the organization.

That may not be the case. Any agreement between Simso and the Elks was never cleared by the police or State Attorney’s Office, and police spokesman Marcinik said his agency has spent a great deal of time working on the case. 

“When our investigation is done, we will have a meeting with the State Attorney’s Office to determine how to go forward,” Marcinik said.

In the week since our sister publication Sebastian River News broke the story, the amount believed to have been siphoned from the Elks’ account has jumped from $86,000 to $102,000. To date, $48,000 is still missing.