Illegal gaming operation raided in Southern California, cash seized

Published on: August 13, 2022, 07:59.

Last update: 13 August 2022, 07:59.

About 40 people were arrested following a raid this week at an alleged illegal casino in Ponoma, California. Two firearms and possible illegal narcotics were seized and cash was also seized.

The approximately 40 people detained outside an illegal gambling operation in Ponoma, Calf.
The approximately 40 people detained outside an illegal gambling operation in Ponoma, Calf., pictured above. The place was raided this week. (Picture: KABC)

The people detained were released and not charged or cited after Thursday’s raid Los Angeles Times reported. In connection with the gambling operation, police arrested a man in Chico, California. He also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest in connection with a previous theft, police said.

Police added that a “large amount” of money was seized from the illegal gaming site, KABC, reported a local television station. Eight gaming tables were also located, police revealed. The drugs included a quarter pound of suspected methamphetamine (methamphetamine). Times reported, citing police sources.

Local police began an investigation into the gaming operation, located at a strip mall, after receiving complaints from residents and several anonymous tips. A judge reviewed their case and approved the search of the Indian Hill Boulevard property.

The raid involved Ponoma police officers and 18 members of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office’s Community Violence Reduction Team.

Ponoma is located about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Previous gambling raids have occurred elsewhere in Southern California.

The raids in Santa Ana

For example, in May, California authorities busted several illegal gambling dens in Santa Ana as part of a large-scale investigation. The suspects now face charges in connection with the raids.

A total of nine suspects have either been detained or are still wanted on gambling charges or related crimes, such as extortion and drug trafficking, the feds revealed in May.

Gambling associations generated thousands of dollars in profits every day, federal authorities claim. Numerous gambling devices were seized.

The suspects, who live in California, include Niem Ngoc Ha, also known as “Dung Body,” 46, of Fountain Valley. He allegedly opened and operated four illegal casinos. Mindy Bui, also known as ‘Thuy’, 36, of Westminster, allegedly ran the illegal sites. Honganh Thi Pham, also known as “Hong,” 40, of Garden Grove, also managed the casinos, the feds said.

As of May, authorities were still looking for two more suspects. One is Sammy Cardona, also known as “Peanut,” 36, of Santa Ana. He allegedly used “violence to protect defendant Ha’s illicit casinos,” according to a federal indictment.

Ha was also charged with bribery. He allegedly paid $128,000 to now-convicted former Santa Ana police officer Steven Lopez.

Santa Ana is 54 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Moratorium on new card rooms

Most types of casinos are illegal in California. Tribal casinos on Native American reservations are allowed in the state.

Authorized card rooms are also allowed. As of last year, there were 86 cardroom licenses in California San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

They often have poker games.

A current moratorium on more card rooms expires in 2023, the report adds.

Hustler Casino Robbery

Bookrooms across the state have been the site of other crimes. For example, in one gambling hall at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino, an armored truck guard was shot and wounded during a frenzied attack on August 4 outside the Gardena, California location.

He was in critical condition at a local hospital but was expected to survive, local television stations reported. A second guard had less serious injuries.

The guards were attacked by a barrage of gunfire as they exited the truck, said Lt. Christopher Cuff of the Gardena police, calling it “an ambush.” At least two robbers took an unknown amount of money and fled the area, police initially said.

Gardena is 22 miles south of Los Angeles.

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