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Federal agents raided the only two card clubs left in San Diego County, and now, 25 people are facing federal gambling charges. NBC 7's Liz Bryant reports. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015)
Federal officials raided two card rooms in San Diego County and issued arrest warrants for 25 people in connection with an alleged conspiracy to launder millions in profits from high-stakes poker games.
Law enforcement officials raided Seven Mile Casino on Bay Boulevard in Chula Vista and the Black Jack Palomar Casino on El Cajon Boulevard and Oregon Street before 9 a.m., seizing more than $600, 000 in player accounts and bank accounts.
Arrests were also made in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, Northern California, Los Angeles and Orange County. Charges ranged from illegal bookmaking, money laundering and failing to report winnings to federal authorities.
Federal prosecutors claim David Stroj, aka "Fat Dave, " of San Diego, hired people to recruit clients to the high-stakes games several times a week and then conspired to launder the money through local card rooms.
Stroj faces federal charges of running an illegal bookmaking, poker and blackjack business as well as money laundering and transporting someone from Mexico to California with the intent to engage in prostitution. He had not been arraigned by Wednesday afternoon and it was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.
Prosecutors claim Stroj would have bookmaking clients write checks to the card rooms so it would be deposited into another player's account. Federal officials say that money would then be withdrawn in cash or chips. This also occurred with the Wynn and Bellagio casinos in Las Vegas, federal officials allege.
"Fat Dave" took approximately $2 million a month in gambling activity, making about $500, 000 profit, federal officials claim.
The four people arraigned in federal court Wednesday allegedly recruited clients from the Barona Casino, Las Vegas and Mexico on behalf of Stroj, according to prosecutors. They pleaded not guilty in court. Craig Kolk, Ricardo Castellanos-Velasquez and Duy Trang were granted bail after their court appearance. Ali Lareybi was detained pending a hearing on Friday at 10 a.m.
Seventeen other people were in custody. Four were fugitives and warrants have been issued for their arrests.
The operator of the Palomar Card Club, Naseem "Nick" Salem, is accused of failing to track winners earning more than $10, 000 a day.
“All financial institutions include casinos are required to report any cash transaction over $10, 000, ” said Joshua Mellor, assistant U.S. Attorney.
Blackjack is an unofficial Nintendo Entertainment System video game and was not widely released. The game features blackjack action and a deal who deals from 1-3 card decks. After winning a certain amount of money or losing it all, the game automatically ends.
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