A bill inspired by this blog's reporting has received unanimous approval from both chambers of the South Dakota Legislature. Senate Bill 18 makes conducting a fake raffle a crime prosecutable under South Dakota's deceptive trade practices statute. In five votes—Senate Commerce and Energy, full Senate, House Judiciary, full House, and Senate again to concur in amendment—not one voice rose in opposition to this bill, because every sane person recognizes that selling tickets for a raffle, then not holding the raffle and not refunding ticketholders ought to be a crime.
Such a crime is apparently rare in South Dakota. In testimony to Senate Commerce and Energy and House Judiciary, Attorney General Marty Jackley said that since 2009, the Division of Consumer Protection has fielded 25 complaints about raffles. Seven of those complaints came from three raffles that cheated no one but erred on technicalities:
- Backyard Motorcycles LLC sold tickets for a raffle to benefit Children's Miracle Network, but SDCL 22-25-25 does not allow for-profit entities to conduct raffles.
- Full Throttle Saloon sold tickets for a raffle in violation of the same for-profit-entity restriction and failed to register its raffle with the Secretary of State.
- Black Hills Youth Football did not register and sold tickets outside of its jurisdiction.
AG Jackley said all three of those errant rafflers have refunded ticketholders, are refunding, or are working with the AG's office to make things right.
The remaining eighteen complaints all come from the same raffle: Preventive Health Strategies' fake raffle of land in Moody County, promoted in late 2012 and 2013 by U.S. Senate-candidacy-bound Annette Bosworth and her husband Chad Haber. PHS sold raffle tickets for $1,000 apiece but never held a drawing, never awarded the prize (AG Jackley confirmed the Moody County land has not changed hands) and never offered refunds. Five months after this blog broke the story of this fake raffle in November 2013, and after Bosworth and Haber attempted to cover their scam by publicly framing former employees, the Attorney General managed to shake five $1000 refunds out of PHS.
However, in his testimony to the Legislature, AG Jackley said the remaining thirteen complaints against PHS remain unresolved. The Attorney General used the present perfect progressive, saying his people "have been trying to work with the owners," suggesting that the AG's effort to get Bosworth to cough up the $13,000 they swindled from the remaining complaining ticketholders is not over.
According to Attorney General Jackley, Senate Bill 18 will not be retroactive. The PHS raffle scam will not be subject to prosecution under SB 18. However, AG Jackley told Senate Commerce and Energy chairman Sen. R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls) that his office could still bring theft charges if it can prove that PHS had fraudulent intent never to conduct its Moody County raffle.
House Judiciary added an amendment at the request of the Attorney General and State Treasurer Rich Sattgast to remove the 30-day refund requirement and bring Senate Bill 18 in line with the state's other unclaimed property statutes. That amendment allows the AG to pursue bogus raffle claims, place retrieved funds in the unclaimed property fund, and let the Treasurer handle distributing refunds. The Senate thus had to take up SB 18 again today to concur with that amendment. With today's unanimous vote, the Bosworth-Haber raffle scam bill now heads for the Governor's desk.