US gambling raid finds hidden network
( - The arrest of a dozen people over the weekend in connection with an alleged illegal gambling network has shed light on an underground economy — illegal local spinoffs of the Dominican Republic’s national lottery.


A four-month investigation into several city of Passaic and Paterson establishments, stemming from reports of multiple burglaries, led to the raid on 10 stores and apartments that were allegedly host to illegal sports gambling and a lottery based on the Dominican lottery, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

What the police first noticed, Passaic County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Paul DeGroot said, was not the illegal gambling, but the burglaries. “These were places that were running out of legitimate businesses, but they were being robbed” for the proceeds of the illegal gambling, DeGroot said.

Lotteries are hugely popular in the Dominican Republic, and the Loteria Nacional, sold from street stands, known as “bancas,” and based in the capital, Santo Domingo, is at the heart of a vast network of on- and off-book gambling enterprises around Dominican Republic.

The Loteria is drawn twice daily and resembles the New Jersey Pick 3 lottery. DeGroot said the New Jersey operations sold unofficial “tickets” for the draws, keeping receipts on old-fashioned carbon paper, some of which was recovered in the raids. The winning numbers are the same as those drawn in Santo Domingo, but the underground enterprise is illegal because those in charge were taking a percentage of the untaxed profits, DeGroot said.

“They are taking something legal and they are twisting it to make their own profit,” DeGroot said, adding that there was nothing to suggest any relationships between the lottery operators and anyone in the Dominican Republic. In fact, he said, some may have existed without the knowledge of the store owners.

There have been several raids on underground Dominican Loteria establishments in New York and in New Jersey in recent years, including an investigation in Rockland County, N.Y., last month that involved federal officials and led to three dozen arrests.

“I think illegal gambling and illegal sports betting has always been in various communities,” DeGroot said. “I don’t think it’s culturally specific.”

Though DeGroot wouldn’t say how the investigation was conducted, he said half the raided establishments were believed to be linked, while the others operated independently.

A total of twelve men and women were charged with the promotion of gambling and the possession of gambling records. Officers from the Prosecutor’s Office and Passaic, Clifton and Garfield police departments also seized $25,628 in cash, seven computers and 105 cartons of untaxed cigarettes.

DeGroot said computers and records were seized and further investigation would show what, if any, parts of the legitimate businesses were involved in the illegal activity. He said there was no sense yet how much money, or how many people, went through these establishments each day.

Main Avenue, in Passaic, was home to three of the alleged gambling operations. A treeless commercial street lined by bodegas, coin-operated laundries and clothing stores, the main drag of Passaic is an evolving testament to the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity: Dominicans, Filipinos, Southeast Asians, Orthodox Jews.

On Sunday morning, the bodega at Ascension and Main Avenue was quietly busy, a steady stream of Spanish-speaking residents coming in for milk and home supplies.

Rafael Breton, working behind the counter, said he was not aware of the investigation or the arrests, though he knew several of the targeted establishments. Breton shrugged and smiled when asked about the Loteria and underground gambling — “the other side,” as he called it, was familiar to him, but he didn’t participate in it.

Down the street, VR Supermarket was open, despite its owner being one of those arrested.

Outside, scratching away at a New Jersey Lotto ticket, was an older Dominican man, a carpenter, who asked not to be named. “I have some friends who are interested,” he said of the Dominican lottery. “But me, no.”

Around the neighborhood, several Dominican residents smiled when asked about the lottery, but said they weren’t aware of an investigation.

A middle-age woman named Rosa, a Passaic resident who would not give her last name, was on her way into her job at a Main Avenue laundry. She “loves” to play the Loteria, she said, but doesn’t buy her tickets here.

“I call Santo Domingo,” Rosa said. “I have always played.”

According to 2010 census figures, roughly 37 percent of Passaic County is of Hispanic or Latino origin. That number is 71 percent for Passaic, where 27.5 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Dominicans constitute a sizable percentage of the Latino population across North Jersey.


Read also: 32 arrested in illegal Dominican lottery sting in USA


Read also: Dominican Republic’s is the only Lottery to go broke

Scandal after scandal under Leonel's government - Dominican Republic’s National Lottery has earned the ominous title of being the first such agency to go broke, and forcing president Leonel Fernandez to transfer its administration to the Internal Taxes Agency, ironically considered the most official of all government entities......

Go back | Date: 03 May 2012
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