City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking to permanently shut down an illegal gambling den in the Mission Terrace neighborhood that has reopened multiple times after police raids and arrests.
The lawsuit names Eduardo C. Bato, the property owner at 4182 Mission St., and managers and operators Angelica C. Bato, Malcolm Vasquez, Kenneth Gurriere and Orlando Leonor. It alleges they engaged in unlawful business practices by violating gambling laws, performed unpermitted construction and violated building and planning codes.
It seeks a court order shutting down the gambling facility for one year, as well as penalties of at least $200 per day for every day that the code violations existed, civil penalties of $25,000 against each defendant and penalties of $2,500 for each violation of the unfair competition law, among others.
The gambling den, which keeps its interior hidden from the public with reflective material on the windows, has operated under names including Silver Shack, Jhec of All Trades and Leisure Time since at least 2014, according to the city attorney’s office. Patrons enter with a knock at the door, which is usually watched by a security guard.
Since 2014, police have made dozens of arrests there on charges including drug use and sales, stolen vehicles, theft and on outstanding warrants.
Police have also made two previous attempts to shut the facility down, executing search warrants in November 2016 and in October 2017. In the 2016 raid they seized nine gambling devices and arrested several occupants including Vasquez, but the facility reopened within months.
In October 2017 police executed another warrant, seized three stand-up arcade style slot machines and 15 computer terminal gambling machines and arrested four people inside, including Vasquez and Gurriere.
The first raid did not result in immediate charges, after prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a case, but in October of 2017 charges were filed against four people in connection with both raids on counts including felony conspiracy for possessing and operating illegal gambling devices and misdemeanor possession and operation of slot machines.
“This gambling den is like a weed,” Herrera said in a statement. “It has been cut down before. Now we’re pulling out the roots to ensure it doesn’t come back.”
Illegal gambling dens and brothels are a persistent problem in areas like the Excelsior District and Outer Mission neighborhoods. Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who represents the area, said they bring in people with drug habits and criminal histories, drawing violent crimes, and also take up valuable retail spaces and hurt surrounding businesses.
“We’re very excited that the City Attorney’s Office is bringing a lawsuit,” Safai said. “We’ve worked diligently with the Police Department and the city in focusing on these locations that are taking away good retail opportunities for small businesses and essentially terrorizing our neighborhoods.”
Safai noted that police have worked to shut down several gambling dens in the district over the past year including one at 350 Ocean Ave. and another in the 5300 block of Mission St.