Posted on: December 10, 2021, 12:12h.
Last updated on: December 10, 2021, 12:30h.
California authorities shut down 30 illegal gambling joints this week. That’s following a roundup of members or associates of the violent Westside Verdugo street gang in San Bernardino, officials revealed on Thursday. In total, 180 suspects were charged in the multi-agency operation.
The suspects include 129 convicted felons, 40 individuals who were on probation, and 12 others who were on parole, police told the Associated Press. More than 100 illegal gaming machines or devices were seized, too, police add.
The illicit gambling venues led the gang to receive tens of thousands of dollars each week over recent months, officials claim. Cops also located multiple firearms during the searches. Authorities seized 92 handguns and 19 assault weapons. They also located $295,870 in cash, and hundreds of pounds of suspected illegal drugs, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.
Westside Verdugo has operated in the San Bernardino region for decades, officials said, and its members are linked to serious crimes. The gang is suspected of violent offenses, including assault, attempted murder, and murder, Bonta alleged.
“Members and associates of this gang have committed violent crimes in San Bernardino with no regard for the people in the community who are directly or indirectly harmed,” Bonta’s statement revealed. “This investigation and [the] arrests and seizures have removed dangerous individuals from our streets and firearms from the hands of those who would choose to commit violent crimes.”
Homicides Linked to Gang Activities
Bonta alleged that as many as five murders, four attempted murders, and other crimes were linked to the gaming sites. Two homicides were solved as a result of the multiple-month investigation, the attorney general adds.
Numerous charges are likely as the suspects are turned over to district attorneys for criminal trials.
California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Special Operations Unit played a key role in the investigation. It is a collaboration between the state’s DOJ and the California Highway Patrol. The unit provides enforcement to police violent criminals, gangs, and organized crime groups, as well as intrastate drug traffickers.
Legal Action Against The Bicycle Casino
In an unrelated initiative, last month Bonta announced a legal action against The Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens, Calif. After feds claimed the gaming property violated the anti-money laundering provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), Bonta’s action will attempt to hold the casino’s owner responsible for state violations.
The Bicycle failed to properly respond to accusations and actions against other casinos for BSA violations, as well as not maintaining sufficient Anti Money Laundering (AML) programs, the attorney general said.
It was also revealed the casino admitted to filing numerous false currency transaction reports on more than $100 million in transactions related to a single gambler, Bonta said. A Chinese national high roller visited the casino about 100 times during a nearly eight-month stretch in 2016.