Police in Laredo have arrested 10 individuals connected to recent simultaneous raids. The raids targeted suspected illegal betting operations, according to authorities.
Alex Chen, 29, Jien Chen, 31 and Con Tran, 56 were charged with keeping a gambling place, gambling promotion and engaging in organized criminal activity. Other individuals involved in the operation include Yao Wang, 31, Shangou Chen, 52, Chang Li, 57 and Jin Xu, 64, who were all charged with gambling promotion and keeping a gambling place. Three more individuals, Kexin Bai, 29, Amy Cao, 30, and Oscar Chavez, 34, also face gambling promotion charges.
Police executed search warrants at seven homes and 14 8-liners. The LPD stated that the investigation was part of the eighth phase of Operation One-Armed Bandit.
District Attorney Isidro R. “Chilo” Alaniz stated, “It’s a continuation of our efforts to combat illegal gambling in Laredo. Working with PD, we will continue to conduct operations. The Laredo Police Department determines the targets and we provide the legal assistance.”
Details of the Raid
Authorities went to the locations around p.m. with the help of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security investigators, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The LPD confirmed that they seized money from the locations, but did not disclose the amount. The narcotics and vice unit of the police department, along with Alaniz’s office, worked as a team to obtain the search warrants.
Alaniz asserted “the bottom line is this: if you have maquinitas and you’re paying out cash, there may be an undercover officer in your establishment. It is that simple. If you are paying out cash, you are going to be busted. Your machines are going to be seized.”
More Instances of Gambling In Laredo
In 2017, there were maquinita raids conducted by Laredo law enforcement, with help from the office of the District Attorney. The raids were indicative of a possible change in the way that investigations are conducted in 8-liner establishments. Many of these facilities blatantly go against Texas law by giving out cash prizes in the hundreds or thousands of dollars for those who end up getting lucky while playing the machines.
When the police department executed the raids, owners of the two maquinitas were arrested, along with several employees. Some of these individuals also faced money-laundering charges. These individuals were also charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. These charges could result in serious jail time, since they are felonies.
From 2010 to 2013, the LPD was raiding maquinitas. During this four-year-period, the police department made about 60 arrests. However, the typical charge that those arrests were faced with was gambling promotion, which is a Class A misdemeanor. The Laredo Police Department would file this charge against people who were caught giving illegal payouts or cash prizes that were $5 or more.
Seemingly, the city’s efforts to crack down on gambling cost more than the resources for going undercover and investigation. Of the 59 individuals who were arrested on gambling promotion charges between 2010 and 2013, 30% were prosecuted. One person was sent to jail for two days, 14 of the individuals got probation, one person was fined and another two individuals had property seized. This is likely the reason the LPD stopped its maquinitas investigation for nearly four years.
Alaniz stated that the consequences or punishment of the cases could appear as though they are not stringent enough. However, Alaniz attributes the results to authorities arresting employees and low-level clerks who do not own the profits and know very little about the establishment.
Alaniz said that the defendants who go to court on gambling charges are usually the “low-level front people” who got involved in the investigation when they made a payout to an undercover officer.
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