HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Houston Police raided two poker clubs Wednesday and nine people were arrested and charged with money laundering.
Those nine people were owner-operators at the Post Oak Poker Club and the Prime Social Poker Club.
Investigators said the arrests were made after a two-year investigation into organized crime.
Wayne Dolcefino, a spokesperson for Prime Social, said he believes the poker club was being unfairly targeted.
“If the allegation is that they were operating illegally, then I say to the DA and the police chief-- give me a break,” Dolcefino said.
According to Dolcefino, Prime Social is the biggest poker club in town with roughly 10,000 members. The business opened a little over a year ago and Dolcefino said the club has never had any prior warning from police about any wrong-doing until Wednesday's sudden raid from HPD and the Harris County DA's office.
“These poker clubs don't take a penny of the games like they do in Vegas and the illegal places. These places do not take a penny. If what they're doing is violation of the law, then why didn't they close them all down?” Dolcefino said.
Five owner-operators from Post Oak Poker Club and four from Prime Social were arrested and charged with money laundering-- a first-degree felony.
Dolcefino said Prime Social does not take a cut of the games. Instead, players will pay for a membership or rent-a-seat by the hour-- a model that he says abides by state gambling laws.
“The place has armed guards. They search everyone that goes in there. They go through scanners. That place isn't a breeding ground for crime, people go there to play a game,” Dolcefino said.
Police Chief Art Acevedo did not speak on camera about Wednesday's raid, but in a news release said “We can’t allow illegal gambling to go on. It drives organized crime and fuels other criminal activity” -- something Dolcefino says is false.
“These are guys who have operated above board, who have spent tens and thousands of dollars of their own money, raising money for firefighters, for cops, for little kids, for orphans. They do TV shows. I mean they're not hiding what they're doing,” Dolcefino said.
“Poker rooms are illegal in the State of Texas,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “We are changing the paradigm regarding illegal gambling by moving up the criminal chain and pursuing felony money laundering and engaging in organized crime charges against owners and operators. Players are not being targeted.”
Last year, nearly three dozen people including, three police officers, were arrested after a year-long investigation.
The persons charged and locations raided Wednesday include:
Post Oak Poker Club, 1001 West Loop South, Suite 400
Daniel Jeffery Kebort, owner
William Jack Heuer III, owner
Alan Harris Chodrow, owner
Sergio Diaz Cabrera, owner
Kevin Louis Chodrow, owner
Prime Social Poker Room 7801 Westheimer Rd.
Dean Maddox, owner
Mary Switzer, comptroller
Brent J. Pollack, general manager
Steven Farshid, asst. general manager