FBI and San Diego Police Arrest 35 Suspects in Illegal Gambling Dens Bust

  • FBI and police raided 24 locations this week as part of a two-year illegal gambling crackdown
  • A jury indicted 47 individuals on charges related to the casinos, including possession of drugs
  • During the two years, police seized $263,000 in cash, 44 firearms, and 640 gambling machines
  • Authorities have linked the dens to violence, with one 44-year-old murdered in a casino in June
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The FBI and local San Diego police raided a number of locations on Wednesday as part of a two-year crackdown on illegal gambling dens which has led to 47 indictments. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A two-year operation

The FBI, with assistance from the San Diego Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies, has conducted a crackdown on illegal gambling operations in San Diego, California.

Early Wednesday morning, 450 law enforcement officers led by the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group searched 24 locations across East San Diego. As a result, authorities made 35 arrests, 15 of which ended in indictments.

federal jury indicted a total of 47 people

The raids were part of a two-year investigation into the gambling dens. A federal jury indicted a total of 47 people on Wednesday for offenses linked to illegal casinos. The charges included operating an illegal gambling business, in addition to several cases of drug and firearm possession.

US Attorney Randy Grossman said the indictments had “lifted a weight” off the San Diego neigborhoods. “Law-abiding citizens who live in these neighborhoods will be safer without these magnets for crime in their midst,” the lawyer asserted.

Gambling, drugs, and firearms

According to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office, the 47 indicted individuals are owners of illegal gambling dens and their employees. They stand accused of running the day-to-day operations of casinos, including roles as doormen, machine auditors, and money collectors.

California prohibits commercial casino-style gambling in which players wager against the house. Instead, state law only permits horse racing, tribal casinos, state lotteries, and card rooms. Mainly, San Diego’s gambling dens illegally facilitate wagering on electronic machines, offering card and slot games.

Wednesday’s indictments allege that the casino operators mainly established their facilities in City Heights, in the East San Diego area. The owners ran the dens out of small businesses, houses, or flats, often paying a percentage of profits to landlords in return for their silence.

Court documents maintain that drug use is a main factor in the popularity of these establishments. It is supposedly common for den employees to provide small amounts of methamphetamine to keep customers returning. Wednesday’s indictments included one woman charged with importing a half-pound of meth. Others face charges for selling or possessing drugs.

many of these casinos took in thousands of dollars every day

Authorities allege that many of these casinos took in thousands of dollars every day. During their two-year investigation, the FBI and San Diego police confiscated $263,000 in cash, 44 firearms, more than 12 pounds of methamphetamine, and 640 gambling machines.

Links to violent crime

Authorities have also linked illegal gambling dens to violent crime in the area. According to an affidavit, there were more than 400 crime cases and over 300 arrests near to the 36 known gambling parlors from July 2018 to July 2020. These investigations included homicides, shootings, stabbings, assaults, robberies, and thefts.

more than 400 crime cases and over 300 arrests near to the 36 known gambling parlors

Last year, police charged a number of individuals for their involvement in the murder of a man at a gambling den in San Diego’s Bay Terraces neighborhood. According to police and prosecutors, the offenders strangled 44-year-old Sean Nixon with a strap from a marijuana grow tent on June 5. Two brothers charged with murder could now face the death penalty.

Outside of San Diego, two men recently received life sentences for their role in an armed robbery and shooting at an unlicensed Bakersfield internet casino. The offenders stole money from the illegal gambling facility in 2018, shooting a security guard in the process. Although shot twice, the guard survived his injuries.

Police in other areas of California have also conducted crackdowns on illegal gambling dens. The Anaheim Police Department raided an illegal casino in October, detaining about 70 individuals. Officers seized a large number of drugs and firearms, in addition to electronic table machines and video gambling devices.

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