Game over: Police, state take down Internet gambling operation
STOCKTON, Feb 05, 2013 (The Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Officers from the state Department of Justice and Stockton police raided an illegal gambling establishment Monday morning, authorities said, seizing weapons, drugs, at least 30 computers, approximately $16,000, cash counting machines and an ATM. Two men were arrested.
Following an undercover investigation that began in June, during which time D's Cyber Lounge moved from the 1100 block of Waterloo Road to its current location at 2550 E. Fremont St., agents observed numerous illegal activities including online gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking, according to police spokesman Officer Joe Silva.
Authorities believe the business raked in $4,000 to $6,000 a day in illegal gambling revenue, or about $35,000 a week. Customers would typically purchase a $20 card and run it through a card reader attached to a computer terminal to place their bets. They would then return the card to cash out their winnings, if any.
The business received numerous complaints from surrounding businesses and residents for the clientele it attracted.
"I saw it every day. It looked like people selling drugs. There were a lot of people, homeless people. They were smoking outside. They broke my door three times in the last three weeks," said Paul Tran, who owns Best Beauty Salon next door. He was forced to install a security screen door and bars on his windows.
While the neighborhood is not trouble-free, Tran said crime and harassment picked up significantly after the so-called Internet cafe moved in several weeks ago.
"I never had these kinds of problems. It's scary. My customers don't like seeing their customers," Tran said.
He was surprised by the police raid. So were the gambling parlor's customers, who started arriving after 10 a.m. Monday and observed its broken front door and police removing computers and other evidence from the business.
"I made $53 last night. I usually break even," said customer Angela McDaniel, 40, from Texas, who learned about the gambling establishment from a family friend and said she had no idea what was going on was illegal.
The business had no signs outside. It filled a 2,000-square-foot space previously occupied by Labor Ready, whose large lighted sign is still on the building. Except for the beauty salon, there are no remaining businesses in the strip mall.
Authorities arrested alleged owner Demario Marquez Burley, 25, at his home in Lathrop at the same time Stockton police SWAT officers raided the business. Burley, who has a criminal record, was being held at the San Joaquin County Jail in lieu of more than $250,000 bail for numerous alleged violations.
While the gambling complaints and one count of cruelty to a child by inflicting injury filed against him are misdemeanor counts, he faces felony charges suspecting him of conspiracy and being in possession of a silencer.
An employee who arrived at the business about opening time was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of illegal drugs. His name was not released.
Lifelong neighborhood resident Gene Hollingsworth stopped by to see what the commotion was about. He said that over the past few weeks, he thought a recycling center had moved in because of the homeless people who suddenly started hanging around the parking lot.
Property owner J.B. Hong, an Orange County resident who purchased the strip mall seven or eight years ago, was unaware of what was going on at D's Cyber Lounge, according to his niece Susan Ahn, who served as a family spokeswoman.
"The only time he goes up there is in case something happens. He has no clue. That's why he was surprised it happened to his place," Ahn said.
Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/goldeenblog.
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