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 Castañeda 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.