Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Police Raid North Nashville Poker Game

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Poker can be fun, but people playing for cash in Tennessee could be breaking the law.

On Monday night, Metro police broke up what they called a sophisticated gambling operation with a familiar Nashville businessman in the mix.
Channel 4's Sara Dorsey was with police during the raid.

At a house on McGavock Pike, cars crammed the driveway, cameras were mounted on each corner and police said the gambling operation was going on inside.
"This isn't your work group getting together and playing cards once a month. This is somebody organizing a game and making money off of it," said an undercover detective.
Police said the man responsible is Paul Eichel, who had an expired business license under the name Casino Royale School for Gambling.
But the undercover detective said the line between business and criminal poker is cash.
"By chance, I was able to get in and play one night. I bought in at $100," he said.
The amount was enough for a warrant, plus neighbors and Metro Councilman Phil Clayburn have been complaining.
Tracey Baggett, who was one of the 14 or so people inside the home, said money is being exchanged but that it's all in good fun.
"It's just a bunch of guys having a good time; it goes on every day all over the place," he said.
Police said they're looking for people generating a lot of complaints and making a lot of money. So, if a few people get together for poker night, police said not to worry.
"We've heard reports of $5,000 or $10,000 being on the table at one time," the detective said.
Police said they seized about $3,000 in cash, a computer, and a gaming table along with a lot of chips.
Detectives said they know this is an uphill battle but if nothing else, maybe gamblers will see that police are serious.
Eichel has been in the news before: In 2005, police questioned him and searched his property in the disappearance of Janet March. March’s husband, Perry March, who was later convicted of Janet March’s murder, had been Eichel’s attorney.
In 2002, when Eichel owned a few troubled clubs in Nashville, he spent time in jail for not filing proper IRS documents on money he made.
In Monday night’s raid, he faces charges of promotion of gambling and possession of a gambling device.
Eichel was the only person charged in the raid. Police said they want to focus on the gaming organizers who are making the money.
The other players were all searched, run for warrants and then allowed to go home.

Lakeland man killed in robbery

Lakeland man killed in robbery

July 28, 2008
LAKELAND, GA (WALB) - Police in Lakeland are looking for a couple of killers after a home invasion murder.
44 year-old Norris Miller was playing a game of poker with friends at a home on Talley Avenue just after 1:00 Monday morning.
Police say two masked men kicked in the door and demanded money.
The robbers stole $220 then shot Miller with a 380 caliber pistol.
"We have one black male who had a gunshot wound to the arm. It went through the arm and into the chest. EMS was called and he was transported to South Georgia Medical Center where he later passed away," says Lakeland Police Chief Robbie Grantham.
Police say they don't know why the killers shot Miller but it's an unusal situation for the small city. "This is rare. I know we've had two this year but it's very rare."
Investigators say they have several leads, but none are very solid.
They're asking anyone with information to call the Lakeland Police Department. That number is 229-482-3309.

$40,000 in poker earnings sought from Seward VFD

By Richard GazarikTRIBUNE-REVIEWWednesday, July 30, 2008
The state attorney general wants a rural Westmoreland County fire department to surrender more than $40,000 it raised from poker tournaments it held last year as fundraisers.
The tournaments were organized by Greensburg attorney Larry Burns, who faces misdemeanor gambling charges for allegedly running Texas Hold 'Em tournaments in Seward.
A petition was filed this week in Cambria County seeking $40,814 the department earned from gambling.
State police seized more than $9,000 during an August raid and are seeking forfeiture of the remaining $31,000, which was deposited in the fire department's account at AmeriService Financial in Johnstown.
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Attorney Jeff Monzo, who represents the fire department, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett, said: "We just have lawyers fill out the paperwork on the forfeiture. We'll let the state police speak for themselves."
State police Cpl. Linette Quinn in Harrisburg said forfeiture of cash and other assets from illegal enterprises is routine, especially in drug cases.
Tournament poker has gained popularity since ESPN started airing the World Series of Poker, and the number of online poker tournaments has proliferated.
Under Pennsylvania law, individuals and organizations cannot profit from illegal gambling.
Texas Hold 'Em is a seven-card game in which wagers are made on the best five cards held by players.
In April, state police charged Burns, 63, with profiting from the three tournaments in Seward as well as weekly poker games in Hempfield.
Poker tournaments have been sponsored by fire departments, clubs and other groups to raise money or to boost business.
Playing poker for money at a fire hall, club or business that has a liquor license is illegal, according to state law, unless the tournament is a self-sponsored event.
For private clubs, poker is not allowed under the Local Options for Small Games of Chance.
Restaurants can hold self-sponsored tournaments as long as a third party is not involved. The only exception is if the third party is a charitable organization.
On some Web sites, players can learn locations of tournaments in Pennsylvania and can be notified by e-mail of where the games will be held.

Police raid Moose Lodge over gaming

Police raid Moose Lodge over gaming
WEST CHESTER — The commotion of police bursting into the Moose Lodge to seize illegal gambling machines wasn't enough to interrupt a game of indoor shuffleboard.
During a surprise bust about 8 p.m. Thursday, state police Liquor Control Enforcement and West Chester officers seized four illegal knock-off video slot machines and roughly $2,000.During the raid in the first block of North Church Street, police asked roughly 15 patrons to leave the bar while officers loaded up the machines and interviewed employees and administrators.Before leaving, one patron openly blamed Gov. Ed Rendell and the state's new casinos for the local bust."You can thank Ed Rendell for this ... He brings in casinos ... Then he starts cracking down on the Moose Lodge, the VFW," the man yelled.Liquor Enforcement Sgt. William La Torre said his office received complaints regarding the gambling machines. The complaints prompted undercover officers to visit the bar, he said. Once the undercover officers observed customers using the machines, a raid was scheduled, he said."There are a lot of bars that have machines like these and people just need to tell us about them," La Torre said before the raid. "It will help us respond to them."Customers gamble on the machines and then a bartender or employee will pay out their winnings, La Torre said. But, he said, the machines are "knock-offs," so the odds are actually in favor of the establishments."In essence, people pump money in and what they're winning back is so minimal," La Torre said.And, police said, even if an establishment is not paying out winnings for their knock-off machines, just having the machines is illegal.No one was arrested during Thursday's raid. However, after investigators complete a financial audit, criminal charges may be filed, La Torre said."First, we like to see where the money is going, who's managing it, who's responsible for it," La Torre said.If administrators knew about the activity, they could be charged, he said. Or charges could be filed against the establishment itself, he said.Moose administrator Mike Meredith showed up during the raid. As investigators began seizing some of the bar's cash, Meredith asked if anything would be left behind for operation."I want to be able to open tomorrow," Meredith said.La Torre said, "You gotta be able to operate legitimately."Auditing the bar's finances could take weeks, police said. The bar was cleared to reopen after investigators left Thursday night.Similarly, in June, LCE raided Phoenixville's Loyal Order of Moose Lodge for the second time in the past year.After receiving an anonymous detailed letter, LCE revisited the Lodge on June 17, police said.There, LCE seized two poker machines, two video slot machines and roughly $300 after seizing illegal poker machines from there last fall, said Enforcement Officer Frank Spera."Apparently, they put them back in when we left and kept on doing what they were doing," Spera said.Illegal gambling can be reported anonymously at 215-726-6200.
©The Phoenix 2008

Mission police raid 'illegal poker den'

By Sergio ChapaMonday, June 30, 2008 at 2:11 p.m.
An alleged mini-casino run out of Mission home is closed for business.
Police received an anonymous tip and raided the alleged poker den at 913 Keystrone Dr. on Saturday night.
Mission Police Lt. Martin Garza said investigators found between 40 and 50 people gambling.
All of them allegedly violated state gambling laws by paying an entrance fee to get inside and play Texas Hold 'Em for cash.
"It makes it illegal when the house takes money and recieves money at the entrance and makes money at the end of the night," Garza said.
Many of the alleged gamblers decided to become witnesses for police.
They told detectives that they paid anywhere from $20 to $40 bucks and sometimes all the way up to $150 to get in and play.
The witnesses will not likely face charges.
But homeowners and two others involved were not so lucky.
Garza said they are likely to face criminal charges.
"Right now, we're looking at bringing charges to the people that are actually responsible for promoting this type of illegal activity: gambling," Garza said.

Assistant principal accused of running gambling ringJune 30, 2008 - 8:58PM
By Ryan Holeywell, The Monitor
MISSION - A McAllen assistant principal who allegedly ran a gambling ring from his home was arraigned on criminal charges Monday.
Police say Jose Luis Esquivel, 38, hosted high-stakes Texas Hold ‘Em poker games in his home for months and took a cut of the winnings.
Esquivel is an assistant principal at CastaƱeda Elementary School in McAllen, said school district spokesman Mark May.
Police executed a search warrant on Esquivel's residence in an upscale Mission neighborhood Saturday night, where they recovered $4,000 in cash, as well as two small bags of cocaine that patrons had left behind, said Mission police spokesman Lt. Martin Garza.
Garza said 40 to 50 people were at the house at the time of the raid.
Monday afternoon, May said McAllen school district leaders were on summer break and had not yet disciplined Esquivel. Administrators will likely address the situation after they return July 14, May said.
Esquivel was charged with promotion of gambling, a class A misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
A woman who answered the door at Esquivel's home Monday said he was not home and the family had no comment on the matter. Esquivel's attorney, Carlos Ortegon, did not return after-hours phone calls Monday.
Garza said that patrons of the home-run casino are cooperating with the police investigation. He said police were led to the gambling ring after anonymous complaints indicating the gambling ring had been operating for eight months.
Home poker games are generally not illegal, Garza said, but Esquivel took a cut of the winnings - a fee known as the "rake" in casino terminology. Card dealers also received tips, Garza said.
Of the $4,000 seized Saturday, $1,800 was hidden in the bra of one of Esquivel's family members.
The house, at 913 Keystone Drive, is in a quiet Sharyland neighborhood south of Expressway 83 near Stewart Road.
On Monday, neighbors said they had no idea what was happening in the house almost every Saturday night, but sometimes as many as 60 cars clogged the streets around the neighborhood.
"This is about the community working with the police, addressing issues involved in their neighborhoods," Garza said.
He said it was fortunate police were able to bust the gambling ring before it spiraled out of control.
Given the presence of drugs, alcohol and gambling in the house, it was an "unsecured environment," Garza said.
"A dispute or a fight could take place," he said. "Someone could wind up getting hurt or murdered inside (the) residence... the main thing for us is to prevent any unwanted incidents from occurring in our local neighborhood."
Garza said Esquivel will likely be the only person involved in the gambling to be charged with a crime.
Esquivel's wife and three children were asleep in a bedroom when police raided the home around 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
"The intelligence we had is that Mr. Esquivel is the person responsible for promoting this activity," Garza said.

Hagerstown man charged in holdup of illicit poker game

July 8, 2008
Hagerstown man charged in holdup of illicit poker game
Maryland state trooper was one of the victims
HAGERSTOWN — A Hagerstown man has been charged in the May 30 holdup of an illicit poker game, where police say he and another man took about $4,000 from 18 people, including a Maryland State Police trooper.
Michael Joseph Campher, 22, of 960 Security Road, Apt. A, faces a total of 52 charges in the case, Washington County District Court records show. He was being held Monday at the Washington County Detention Center on $400,000 bond, a spokesman there said.
Trooper 1st Class Michael A. Ford of the Hagerstown Barracks confirmed to investigators that he was one of the victims, according to charging documents for Campher filed by Maryland State Police Cpl. Carl R. Hager of the Combined County Criminal Investigation Unit in Cumberland, Md.
Asked about possible repercussions for Ford, state police spokeswoman Elena Russo said the matter was under investigation. She said she could not comment further because it was a personnel matter. She confirmed that a number of gambling activities, such as the Texas Hold 'Em game described in the robbery case, are illegal in Maryland.

Ford was not working Monday and his voicemail box at the Hagerstown barracks was full.
According to interviews with five of the victims, the robbery happened shortly after 10 p.m. during a poker game in a building at 223 N. Prospect St. in Hagerstown, Hager wrote in the charging documents.
The victims said that just after the first break, two men in ski masks walked in and ordered everyone to put their money on the table, Hager wrote. One of the men pointed a gun at one of the players, and everyone reached into their pockets and put their money on the table as the other man gathered it up, according to victim accounts in Hager's report.
The victims heard the man with the gun address the man gathering the money as "Mike," and several of the players noticed that the man addressed as Mike had distinct-looking greenish eyes and a bulge under his mask that could have been created by dreadlocks, Hager wrote.
Afterwards, the players discussed these details and reached a consensus that the man gathering the money was a man with dreadlocks and green eyes who had played with them there before, known to them as "Mike," Hager wrote.
One of the victims identified this person as Campher, Hager wrote. That victim told investigators he was the one who introduced Campher to the poker games and said he immediately suspected Campher was the one gathering the money, Hager wrote. He also provided police with Campher's address.
Campher told police he had heard he was being accused, but he denied any involvement in the robbery, Hager wrote. However, Campher's brother told police Campher had admitted to him that he was involved in the robbery, Hager alleged in court documents.
Campher faces counts of first-degree assault, armed robbery, robbery, second-degree assault, theft, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony, reckless endangerment, and conspiracy to commit robbery and armed robbery.
A preliminary hearing for Campher was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. July 30 in Washington County District Court.