Charges leveled in Bay Area card room raids 

A San Bruno card room remains shut down following Bay Area-wide state and federal raids Wednesday that netted 14 arrests on racketeering, loan-sharking and narcotics charges.

A San Francisco federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday in connection with the raid charged 15 people with racketeering, loan-sharking and narcotics offenses linked with gambling facilities Artichoke Joe’s in San Bruno and The Oaks Card Club in Emeryville.

The indictment, which resulted in 14 arrests, charged two individuals, Ding Lin and Hung Tieu, with extending and collecting extortionate and illegal debts at Artichoke Joe’s. Neither was an employee of the casino, but the indictment alleges they conspired with an unnamed employee.

An attorney for Artichoke Joe’s did not return calls requesting comment. The card rooms can request a hearing before the California Gambling Control Commission to seek permission to reopen, but neither had done so as of Thursday, state officials said.

The alleged loan sharks, most of whom didn’t work at the casinos but spent substantial amounts of time there, usually charged 10 percent interest a week until the loan was fully paid and “used threats and their reputation for violence,” according to the indictment. The document also stated that “a loan obtained at one casino could be paid back at the other.”

The indictment said individuals allegedly distributed drugs on the premises of at least one casino, and included charges of drug conspiracy and distribution, and manufacture involving cocaine and methamphetamine.

The Bay Area raids concluded a two-year investigation, spearheaded by the FBI and DEA in conjunction with various federal and state agencies.

Also, agents seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and thousands of dollars worth of casino gambling chips, jewelry and valuables. Several pounds of narcotics and numerous firearms were confiscated as well.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Jack Gillund couldn’t elaborate on the specific amount of money and narcotics found at each card room.

According to a fall 2008 San Bruno City Hall report, Artichoke Joe’s is the single highest taxpayer business or location in the city, generating annual revenue that year of about $1,440,000. City Councilman Ken Ibarra described the revenue as “significant” and said he hoped the card room was not closed very long.

Usually if there is any suspected criminal activity at Artichoke Joe’s, it is reported to the Police Department, San Bruno police Chief Neil Telford said. Telford said in recent weeks, the department had not received any calls regarding suspected criminal activity.

“Obviously, you have a casino in your town,” Telford said. “We want to make sure that the casino operates under the guidelines of the law and that it is legitimate.”

aterrazas@sfexaminer.com

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