Local card room called a 'front' by FBI

Posted at 11:56 AM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 22:11:10-04

Police and FBI agents raided homes and an El Cerrito-area gambling establishment Wednesday and arrested fourteen people as part of an ongoing organized crime-related investigation.

The agencies served a federal search warrant at Lucky Lady Casino and Card Room on El Cajon Boulevard at about 6 a.m.

After gathering "items of evidence" inside the business, the U.S. Attorneys Office in Southern California is now calling the business a front for illegal sports gambling operations.

We talked to a man who has played poker at Lucky Lady for about seven years. He speaks to the owner and managers regularly. Now, they are in custody.

"They were very conscious of what's going on and they treat me very well," Fernando Ortegon said.

Since 2014, Fernando's likely been placing bets alongside FBI agents who went undercover and used wiretaps to collect evidence. That's how they learned those arrested were recruited San Diegans to participate in the "Lucky Lady Sports Book" and place sports bets on illegal websites.

Ortegon's first concern was if his dealers could lose their jobs.

"This is their life," he said. "This is how they make their money."

For now, the FBI told 10News it will not interfere with the operations of the Lucky Lady Casino.

Those arrested are expected to be in court by Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office told 10News in a statement that more people are involved but they are on the run in Canada and Thailand.