Police in New York have broken up an underground poker game that they say has been a part of a front for a significant drug distribution ring.
Officers executed 19 search warrants across multiple states, causing the arrest of 32 people in New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Florida. David Diaz, 52, has been identified as the ring leader of both the drug community, which allegedly distributed heroin and cocaine, in addition to illegal gambling operation.
“Both the gambling operation and the narcotics enterprise charged in the indictment unsealed today preyed on human vulnerabilities and demonstrated utter disregard for life,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said in a statement.
Another agent known to it as a”sophisticated underground gambling operation,” requiring a months-long investigation and the assistance of federal and local law enforcement agencies.
It is said that the profits from the poker games running in the gambling house helped to fuel the large drug operation. Over $150,000 in cash, thousands of poker chips, in addition to guns, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine were seized after police moved in.
High Risk Meet-Up Game
The poker games took place in apartment buildings in New York’s West Village and Lower East side, and they are surprisingly small, considering the scale of the drug ring.
Organizers would use the site Meetup.com to enlist players. While police say some of the clientele consisted of doctors and other professionals who would occasionally lose as much as $20,000 in a night, lots of the players were just regular rounders who had been grinding small-stakes cash games.
“We welcome respectful poker fans looking to play with 1/3, 2/5, 5/10 no limit hold’em and pot limit omaha in a fun upscale setting in Manhattan,” one of their event pages on Meetup.com read before being taken down.
These matches promised free drinks and meals, complete with waitresses and safety. They would typically run from 4 pm to 4 am and could accommodate about 30 players, all of whom were vetted by organizers before being allowed in the building.
That did not prevent several cops from being covertly placed in the game, according to police, who say the undercover officers also bought drugs from the group as part of their operation.
At least those cops were on the correct side of the law.
Another recent case from the Empire State involved a New York police officerhimself. Former NYPD detective Richard Palase was convicted of being the brains behind a long-running underground poker game in Staten Island in 2015. He avoided jail time but lost any claim to the pension he’d paid into for 19 years.
Earlier this year, two police officers and a state highway patrol guy in Kansasunder similar allegations. While they weren’t considered to be running the game, they were accused of taking part in it, in addition to obstructing the FBI officers tasked with attempting to take the game down.