The Seven Mile Casino on Bay Boulevard in Chula Vista and the Black Jack Palomar Casino, both in San Diego County, were subjected to early morning raids on December 9th as $600,000 in cash and bank assets were seized by the feds.
At the same time the raids were being carried out, FBI agents arrested 25 suspects in various US in states from New Jersey to California.
In a report issued to the press following the raids, the Bureau said that the reason for the move was a suspected money laundering operation worth an estimated $10 million.
The two-year investigation centered on a bookmaker and someone with alleged connections to the Philadelphia Mafia, one David Stroj, aka “Fat Dave”.
Through his network of contacts in the gambling world, Stroj would allegedly organize illegal high stakes poker games around the country and then launder the money through the two San Diego casinos.
At its peak, it’s been estimated that Stroj was making around $2 million each month through a series of unlicensed poker, blackjack, and sports betting operations. From that, it’s estimated he cleared about a half-million dollars a month in profits.
Then, with the help of recruits and employees of the two casinos, including Naseem Salem of the Palomar Card Club, the money would allegedly be laundered before making its way back to Stroj.
According to reports, other outlets, including the Wynn and the Bellagio in Las Vegas, were also used to “wash” the illicit funds, although the two Strip casinos were not named in the indictment.
Gamblers would pay debts to Stroj by writing a check to the card rooms. These checks were allegedly deposited in marker accounts and held for players at the card rooms.
The money would then be withdrawn from those accounts in either cash or chips and then filtered back to Stroj.
As well as charges relating to running illegal betting operations and laundering money through two casinos, Stroj is also alleged to have illegally transported someone from Mexico for the purposes of prostitution.
Four members listed on the FBI’s indictment appeared in court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. More suspects will appear in court in the coming weeks and the two casinos have vowed to help the FBI with its investigations.
“Seven Mile Casino, owned and operated by Harvey Souza and his family, have worked tirelessly for the past 70 years to build upon their great-grandfather’s legacy and comply with the evolving regulations regarding card rooms across the state.
As a family and as a business, they are very much invested in the community of Chula Vista and the industry. We look forward to working with the California Bureau of Gambling Control to resolve all issues,” read a statement from Seven Mile Casino.