Alleged Crime Ring Working Out of Card Clubs Indicted For Loansharking, Narcotics

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern California today announced an indictment of a crime ring working out of two card clubs shut down yesterday by federal agents. The clubs are Artichoke Joe’s Casino in San Bruno and Oaks Card Club in Emeryville. (Here’s a KGO video report about the raid by agents yesterday.)

Update 5:13 p.m. So how long will these gambling establishments be closed? From the Examiner last night:

Both operations were served with an emergency order to close down their gambling sections, and those sections are expected to remain closed until the operations request a hearing before the gambling control commission. The state’s Attorney General through the Bureau of Gambling Control enforces the gambling laws of the state. An emergency order can be issued when officials believe there are violations of state law.

San Bruno Administrative Services Director Jim O’Leary, whose been in the city for 12 years, said he’s never seen anything like this before. The city receives revenue from the casino based on a table tax, and while O’Leary couldn’t give an exact figure he called the amount “significant.”

“They’ve been in business in San Bruno for close to 100 years,” O’Leary said, citing the casino as a historic part of the community.

“Artichoke Joe’s is a major business in San Bruno,” O’Leary said, adding that the casino’s closure for any length of time will have “a negative impact on the community.”

Recently, San Bruno lost another long-time business when Lullaby Lane, which sold equipment and clothes for infants, closed after 64 years.

To read about the history of Artichoke Joe’s, check out this 2007 Chronicle piece and the casino’s own web site.

Here’s the press release about the indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

A federal grand jury in San Francisco has charged 15 individuals with committing racketeering, extortionate extension of credit, and narcotics offenses at and through two Bay Area casino card clubs, Artichoke Joe’s Casino and Oaks Card Club (the casinos), United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.

The indictment, which was unsealed this morning in redacted form, charges that between February 2008 and the present, Cuong Mach Binh Tieu, Lap The Chung, Bob Yuen, Ding Lin, Skyler Chang, Chea Bou, May Chung, and Hung Tieu agreed to conduct and conducted the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO). The indictment alleges that these individuals associated in fact at the casinos to form an enterprise and that they used the casinos’ facilities and assets to extend and collect extortionate credit and distribute illegal drugs. The maximum punishment for the RICO crimes charged in Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment is 20 years imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Additionally, Cuong Mach Binh Tieu, Lap The Chung, Ding Lin, Skyler Chang, and Chea Bou are charged with federal narcotics offenses with maximum prison terms ranging from20 years to life with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, maximum fines ranging from $1 million to $4 million, and supervised release terms of up to life. The indictment alleges that these narcotic offenses occurred either at the casinos or through the use of the casinos’ facilities.

Lap The Chung, Bob Yuen, Ding Lin, May Chung, and Hung Tieu are also charged with federal extortionate extension of credit offenses with maximum punishment of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. Extortionate credit is otherwise known as loansharking, and the indictment alleges that such loansharking occurred at the casinos on numerous occasions over the past two years.

In addition to the offenses described above, the indictment charges the following defendants with crimes of extending extortionate credit with other members of the enterprise: Thanh The Chu, Kwai Ping Wong, John Hinyu Chew, and Bao Tran. Each of these defendants is an employee of either Oaks Card Club or Artichoke Joe’s Casino. Finally, two individuals, Bao Hung Phung and Billy Ket Chau, are charged with a single count each of extending extortionate credit.

The indictment is the result of an approximately two-year investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who worked together with the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control (Cal. DOJ) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Yesterday, the FBI and DEA, working with Cal. DOJ, IRS, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, United States Postal Inspection Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Oakland Police Department, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department, Alameda Police Department, Emeryville Police Department, San Bruno Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Berkeley Police Department, and San Jose Police Department arrested 14 of the defendants charged in the indictment. They also simultaneously executed more than twenty search warrants throughout the Bay Area and elsewhere. During the course of executing the search warrants, agents seized several hundred thousand dollars in cash and thousands of dollars worth of casino gambling chips, jewelry, and valuables, several pounds of narcotics, and numerous firearms.

The investigation was conducted and funded in part by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a multi-agency task force that coordinates long-term narcotics trafficking investigations.

  • Joe Smith

    How long are both casino closed? It’s really not necessary to shut down the casino for 5 days (so far), and there is no sense to reopen them in the future. There are lots of casino employees need work to pay their bills. Authority can’t make these innocent employees unemployment purposely, especially in these tough economic environment.

  • emai

    my dad is one of these people and they should not be profiled in this way. they are innocent & the news and blogs are exaggerating.

Author

Scott Shafer

Scott migrated to KQED in 1998 after extended stints in politics and government. Now he covers those things and more as host of the California Report and Senior Correspondent for KQED Newsroom. When he's not asking questions you'll often find him in a pool playing water polo. Find him on Twitter @scottshafer

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