Although the State of New York has had legal gambling for decades, especially pari-mutuel betting at horse racing tracks, illegal gaming still flourishes in some areas of New York City. Authorities have arrested nearly three dozen people for illegal gaming and narcotics distribution in the East Village and the West Village that appears to have brought in millions of dollars. The arrests came from New York City, Georgia, Florida, and Massachusetts.
How the Investigation Began
The investigation of the gambling and narcotics operation began with a tip that one group was responsible for both the gaming and narcotics operation. Officers from the NYPD began the investigation through a network of extensive wiretaps. They discovered a large cocaine and heroin distribution network in the East Village, and a gambling house located near Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue). While the initial tip was concerned more with the illegal distribution of narcotics than the gaming operation, authorities were surprised by the gambling house, called The Poker House, which catered to professional high rollers.
During the investigation, the suspects sold more than $50,000 in drugs to narcotics and gaming officers who were working undercover.
Charges against those who were arrested include conspiracy, sale, possession, and distribution of a controlled substance, sale of marijuana, promoting of gambling, and money laundering. David Diaz was considered to be the leader. Two of his associates, Geeta Singh, who was the manager and promoter of The Poker House, and Benjamin Guerrero, who acted as a drug dealer that packaged and sold narcotics, were also arrested. Guerrero also acted as a pit boss at the illegal casino.
At the time of the bust, NYPD officers found more than $125,000 in cash, thousands of dollars in poker chips, money counting machines, guns, two vehicles, and pounds of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and Xanax pills. Gambling records, which were very extensive, were also seized, and police noted that more arrests may be coming, depending on what a review of the records reveals.
The Poker House
The Poker House was open from 4 p.m. until 4 a.m. Poker games were limited to two hours, and up to 30 players could play in the location, which had several rooms. The rooms were divided according to the amount of money the players purchased in chips before the game was played. The lowest ante tables began at $200 in chips to play, while higher-stakes tables required players to purchase $500 in chips to play.
In addition to the on-site play, the Poker House also operated an online site, which allowed verified players that the organizers knew to play poker online and bet. The authorities are still searching bank accounts that were connected to the Poker House to ensure that all the records have been seized.
While the gambling and narcotics bust was fairly large, experts said it is not the only gaming house to be stopped by the NYPD recently, but it is the first one in several years to be tied to the narcotics trade.
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