SAN DIEGO – Twenty-five people are charged in a federal grand jury indictment with participating in an illegal gambling operation that laundered an estimated $10 million in gambling proceeds through Chula Vista and San Diego card rooms in what is believed to be the biggest illegal gambling prosecution in San Diego County in recent memory.
On December 9, 2015, more than 200 agents from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the IRS, the California Department of Justice Bureau of Gambling Control, plus San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies, served five search warrants and 22 seizure warrants at locations in Chula Vista, San Diego and elsewhere.
The search and seizure locations included the Village Club Card Room, also known as Seven Mile Casino in Chula Vista, and the Palomar Card Room in San Diego in which agents seized more than $600,000 in player accounts and bank accounts.
Authorities arrested 21 people at locations around San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties as well as San Jose, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Five indicted defendants remain fugitives and warrants have been issued for their arrests.
These defendants, are charged in a federal grand jury indictment with various crimes, including running an Illegal Gambling Business, Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments, Failure to Maintain an Anti-Money Laundering Program and Transportation for Prostitution.
According to court documents, some of the defendants allegedly operated unlicensed casinos out of rented Rancho Santa Fe mansions. Up to three times a week, some defendants held intimate high-stakes poker and black jack games in extravagant settings that featured professional card dealers, prostitutes, chefs and waitresses.
Court documents allege that lead defendant David Stroj operated an illegal bookmaking business that extended throughout North America, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Chicago, Philadelphia, South Carolina and Florida, as well as locations in Mexico and Canada.
Millions of dollars in proceeds from the gambling events were laundered through the Palomar and Village Club card rooms, Las Vegas casinos, various bank accounts, shell companies, and a bail bonds business. The ring also operated illegal offshore online gaming websites.
California’s Bureau of Gambling Control Chief Wayne Quint, Jr. issued Emergency Closure Orders on both the Palomar and Village Club card rooms effective immediately.
“These casinos allegedly engaged in money laundering and illegal gambling schemes that undermine the well-being of our communities,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “I thank our California Department of Justice Bureau of Gambling Control Special Agents, as well as our local and federal law enforcement partners, for holding the alleged perpetrators accountable for their financial crimes.”
"This investigation is an example of how federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together to share investigative information and carry out warrants and arrests state and country-wide," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "This was no small undertaking."
The investigation, which began in 2013, involved hundreds of intercepted calls and text messages, border crossing records plus extensive surveillance and reviews of financial records.
Stroj, the lead defendant, is described as a large-scale international bookmaker based in the San Diego area. He is charged with conducting an illegal bookmaking business, conducting an illegal poker and blackjack business and conspiracy to launder money.
According to court records, Stroj and codefendants used offshore gambling websites, including betblackdiamond.com, LBTsports.com and diamondsb.ag, to manage his bookmaking business. Stroj used financiers, a business manager, sub agents, money runners, money couriers and debt collectors to conduct the bookmaking business and launder millions of dollars.
The bookmaking clients would make checks out to the casinos such as Palomar and the Village Club, or the Wynn and Bellagio casinos in Las Vegas, and the funds would be deposited into marker or player bank accounts, court records said.
Card rooms are legal in the state of California if they comply with strict regulations. For example, an owner of a gambling establishment must apply for and obtain a valid state gambling license from the Bureau and the California Gambling Control Commission (Commission). The Bureau's Licensing staff will conduct in-depth background investigations on applicants to determine whether they are suitable to hold a state gambling license. Suitability is determined by a number of factors including but not limited to the applicant's honesty, integrity, general character, reputation, habits, and financial and criminal history.
DEFENDANTS Case Number: 15cr2932-BAS
Jean Paul Rojo
Palomar Card Club
VC Cardroom, Inc., dba Seven Mile Casino and Village Card Club
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California