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FBI, law enforcement raid San Diego 'illegal gambling dens'

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Posted at 6:29 AM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 17:36:40-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The FBI, with assistance from local law enforcement agencies, served warrants at several locations in San Diego Wednesday morning as part of a crackdown on an illegal gambling operation, with the raids resulting in numerous arrests.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego announced federal grand jury indictments of 47 people “allegedly associated with illegal gambling establishments that are closely tied to gangs, drugs and violence in San Diego neighborhoods.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, early Wednesday morning, 35 people were arrested as law enforcement agencies converged on 24 locations in east San Diego that were considered “illegal gambling dens.”

Authorities noted 15 of the 35 arrestees were part of the group of 47 indicted.

In addition to the arrests, the agencies seized 44 firearms, over 12 pounds of meth, $263,000, and 640 gambling machines as part of a two-year investigation.

ABC 10News learned the raids were carried out by hundreds of members of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force - Gang Group, San Diego Police Department, and other regional law enforcement agencies.

In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said: “The defendants are charged with conspiracy, operating illegal gambling businesses, maintaining drug involved premises, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, distribution of methamphetamine, importation of methamphetamine, felon in possession of firearm and felon in possession of ammunition. The gambling dens continued to operate during the pandemic.”

The office added:

“The indictments allege that illegal gambling dens were often located inside small businesses or inside houses, apartments, and outbuildings in residential neighborhoods predominantly in City Heights, in the East San Diego area. According to court records, it is common for gambling den owners to pay rent in cash to the owners of these properties and, in some cases, a percentage of the profits to cast a blind eye to all the foot traffic.

These establishments are equipped with electronic gambling machines which are programmed with several games of chance such as poker, blackjack, keno, jacks or better, and slot games. Most locations of these establishments are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The indictments allege that many of these gambling locations were taking in thousands of dollars a day.

The main draw to illegal gambling establishments is methamphetamine use and sales, according to the indictments. It’s rare to have a patron who does not use or sell methamphetamine inside these locations. The people selling drugs inside may be employees or independent drug dealers. According to court records, it is common for employees to hand out small amounts of methamphetamine and ‘comp’ customers to keep them playing and coming back for more.”