Neighbors surprised by sports book raid
It may have been one of the more sophisticated, and profitable, businesses in the area.
Tucked inside a discreet, two-room suite in a Zephyr Cove office building, ST Investing billed itself as just that, an investment firm.
Its employees – including a software programmer – were listed on payroll documents. Like any legitimate business, the company and its employees paid income tax.
Meanwhile, about $60,000 to $80,000 worth of computer and telephone equipment lined the walls and six desks inside the work area.
And there were many paper shredders.
ST Investing closed abruptly Monday afternoon. The doors were literally broken down during a raid on what investigators are calling an elaborate bookmaking operation.
Eleven agents from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, in conjunction with five Southern California investigators, carried out the raid hours before the NCAA Tournament Finals – one of the most heavily bet sporting events of the year.
Investigators, posed as bookmakers, took wagers from clients as far away as New York, said Tom Paolella, deputy chief of the Gaming Control Board’s law enforcement division. The calls reportedly came in nonstop.
Anyone who lives at Lake Tahoe can legally bet on sporting events at one of several licensed sports books on the Nevada side of the state line.
ST Investing, however, is believed to have taken bets from clients who primarily live outside the area. They contacted the operation via toll-free phone numbers.
Five were arrested during Monday’s raid inside Elk Point Plaza at 310 Dorla Court.
Four of the suspects, Michael Reeder, 35, Michael Harvin, 30, Nicole Berlandier, 24, and Shannon Dolan, 23, are Stateline residents. The software programmer, Damien Leroux, 30, listed his residence in Canada.
Reeder is the alleged ringleader. He waived extradition Wednesday to Orange County, where he is wanted on a $100,000 warrant for illegal bookmaking charges.
The other four were released later Monday after each posting $25,000 bail for suspected gaming violations and conspiracy. They are to be arraigned in the Tahoe Justice Court on April 28.
The raid came at about the same time three other were arrested on bookmaking charges in Cerritos, Calif. in what investigators believe is an affiliated operation. Two other Southern California men linked to the sports book have also been arrested. The pair arrested in Southern California face between 19 and 23 counts of illegal bookmaking.
Authorities in Anaheim, Calif., reportedly began investigating the operations about six months ago.
Since then, a check of telephone records indicated about 100,000 calls a month to the Cerritos and Zephyr Cove sites, said Anaheim Police Lt. James Flamini.
“We think this guy Reeder was probably the guy in charge of setting up this whole business,” according to Flamini.
Flamini was one of four investigators who took over the phone lines following the raid at the Cerritos office, also in a discreet suite inside a business complex. He reported taking about $40,000 worth of bets in roughly two hours. The largest wager was for $9,000 on the Kentucky – Arizona college basketball championship game.
“Eighty percent of the people were betting on Kentucky,” Flamini added. “If Kentucky would have covered the spread, (the bookmakers) would have taken a pretty good hit.”
Instead, the underdog Arizona Wildcats pulled off an upset that would have resulted in a large take for the Cerritos book – had it not been raided.
The raid at Zephyr Cove was a shock to employees at other offices at Elks Point Plaza.
“They (ST Investing’s staff) were always very friendly,” said Phil Garner, who works in a data processing firm across the hall from the alleged sports book. “I never had any feeling that something (illegal) was going on. I never got that impression.”
The raid happened quickly.
Elks Point Plaza employees saw Gaming Control Board agents dressed in bright blue jackets approach the building from the side opposite to ST Investing’s suite.
Within minutes, the agents forced open ST Investing’s door and arrested those inside with little struggle.
Paolella said the only reaction from employees was to begin stuffing documents in paper shredders – and investigators promptly retrieve those documents.
Garner opened his door to check on the commotion and was immediately told to close it by one of the officers participating in the raid.
Besides computers, phone lines and pay out sheets, investigators seized about $42,000 in cash, Paolella said.
It is a felony to operate a race and sports book in Nevada without licenses from the Gaming Control Board.
With the exception of licensed horse racing, wagering on sporting events is illegal in California.
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