About 40 people were cited and eight people were arrested Sunday on illegal gambling charges in a multi-agency law enforcement raid on four game rooms in Van Zandt County, according to a news release from the Van Zandt County District Attorney’s Office.
The county’s jail report shows John Richard Joseph, 59, was charged with keeping a gambling place, gambling promotion, and possession of gambling devices.
Joseph was held in the jail on bonds totaling $60,000, according to jail records.
The jail report shows Ricky Dean Evans, 54, Michael C. Hester, 53 and Benny Tim McLemee, 49, were charged with possession of gambling devices, equipment or paraphernalia, gambling promotion, money laundering of at least $150,000 but under $300,000 and engaging in organized criminal activity.
McLemee, Hester and Evans were held in the jail on bonds totaling $240,000, according to jail records.
Authorities also searched McLemee’s Smith County residence on County Road 422, according to District Attorney Tonda Curry.
Jail records show Marlena Dawn Nipp, 38, and Kenji Nyrisa Suehs, 35 were charged with gambling promotion, keeping a gambling place, possession of gambling devices, equipment or paraphernalia, money laundering of at least $30,000 but under $150,000 and engaging in organized criminal activity.
Nipp and Suehs were held in the jail on bonds totaling $260,000, according to the jail report.
The jail report shows Marlon Ray Williams, 64 also known by the alias Catfish was charged with keeping a gambling place, gambling promotion and possession of possession of gambling devices, equipment or paraphernalia.
Williams was held in the jail on bonds totaling $60,000, according to jail records.
The news release said officers also located a fugitive wanted on federal charges at one of the gambling establishments.
Curry said one of the game rooms was on U.S. Highway 64 near the Midway Fire Department, another was in Edom and two others were on Interstate-20 near Farm-to-Market Road 47.
The DA’s office said search warrants were also executed in Smith and Gregg Counties where some of the owners and operators of the establishments live.
Those search warrants resulted in the seizure of about $70,000, four guns and a stolen vehicle, according to the news release.
Curry commended the sheriff’s office for their patience and diligence in gathering the evidence to support the issuance of the arrest warrants.
“An investigation of this magnitude does not happen overnight,” Currey said in the news release. “It takes persistence, diligence and the patience to keep dedicating resources to the fine details without seeing immediate results. The citizens of the county should be proud of the commitment to law enforcement that our sheriff’s office exhibited in this investigation.”
The DA’s office said many of the patrons playing the illegal games were from outside the county.
The news release said investigators were able to document the increase in associated crimes like burglary and robbery that the illegal establishments bring with them.
The investigation is still ongoing with several arrest warrants remain outstanding, according to the DA’s office.
The DA’s office said the sheriff’s office is aware that many convenience stores in Van Zandt County have electronic gambling devices.
“They should take this as the handwriting on the wall,” Currey said. “If they don’t, we will act accordingly.”
Sheriff Dale Corbett joined Curry in thanking the agencies who assisted in the execution of the search warrants across the three counties.
They included the Wills Point, Edgewood, Grand Saline and Henderson Police Departments, Kaufman, Hunt, Smith, Gregg and Henderson County Sheriff’s Offices, Texas Parks and Wildlife, United States Marshal’s Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.