San Jose police take down illegal gambling operations

San Jose police detectives say a six-month investigation into illegal gambling has resulted in arrests and some shuttered businesses.  The stores seemed legitimate, but investigators say they were used to provide access to criminal activity.

In the Cropley Center strip mall, sandwiched between a donut shop and Baskin Robbins, is a sign for the Cropley P-C repair and rental. The business is gone, and investigators say it was never truly here. This was one of the sites that looked legitimate, but police say was actually a doorway into the world of illegal gambling.

“Inside it was a full blown gambling operation,” said SJPD special investigations Lt. Paul Messier.

He says resident’s complaints since the beginning of the year prompted a closer look by detectives. Police targeted businesses on north 14th and Saint John streets, the 1,700 block of McKee Road, the 2,100 block of Morrill Avenue and the PC repair place on Cropley Avenue. 

In each case, investigators say the outside appeared legit, but inside pictures like these: Full-blown gambling machines set up and operating, right under the collective noses of patrons who frequent the area.

“My goodness. Well, nowadays, who knows. There’s so much fraud everywhere,” said patron Mary Lopez, as she walked inside a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor that’s next to the now empty PC repair shop.

Five business owners and employees are in custody. Fifty-one gambling machines have been seized, along with $75,000 in cash.

“There is a lot of peripheral crime that goes with these types of illegal operations. Ah, it could be quality of life issues, all the way up to armed robbery,” said Lt. Messier.

Officials say two additional warrants served in Rocksprings and East San Jose. The result: Thirteen gambling machines and more than $280,000 in cash seized. Police say the criminal element is attracted to the high cash flow of fronts such as these, and the resulting crimes hurt everyone including those who might be addicted to the rush of gambling.

“We do have an impact when we take these types of organizations down. The problem is it creates a void. And there are other individuals and groups that want to fill that void because it’s so lucrative,” said Lt. Messier.

San Jose police investigators says they will continue to and raid businesses engaged in illegal gambling, especially as the department regains full staffing and can allocate more officers to the effort. The names of those who have been arrested are being withheld pending the outcome of the on-going police investigation.