EGLESTON SQ.—Five Washington Street businesses were raided last week—and 14 workers arrested—as part of a massive bust of an alleged illegal gambling ring.
Prosecutors accuse the businesses of conducting illegal sports and foreign lottery betting, then paying 60 percent of the profit to a syndicate that made more than $1 million a year.
The Egleston Square businesses were among 14 Boston and out-of-town locations simultaneously raided on April 8 in a bust code-named “Operation Barbershop.” April 8 was opening day for the Boston Red Sox baseball team—a date chosen by law enforcement to ensure that any illegal sports betting would be busy. The raids followed a 15-month investigation by local, state and federal authorities.
“Make no mistake: this was not a harmless neighborhood lottery or sports book,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley in a press statement. He claimed the ring was “fraught with violence” and “regularly deprived players of their winnings when it suited their purposes.”
The raided businesses included: D&D Communications Corp., 3142 Washington; D’Palace Salon and Barbershop, 3094 Washington; Super Mario Special Sneakers, 3115 Washington; Tony’s Travel, 3108 Washington; and Vimar Designs, 3205 Washington.
“That is a shock for us,” said Solomon Lemma, an anti-crime activist and owner of the nearby Egleston Liquors store, saying he is familiar with the raided businesses and never noticed anything unusual.
Lemma said that all of the raided businesses signed a petition he circulated last fall calling for an increased police presence in Egleston Square.
“They all signed,” he said. “They’re all behind us.”
All of the people arrested in the raided businesses face charges of participating in or permitting illegal gambling, according to Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Jake Wark. The 14 arrests included three Jamaica Plain residents, according to police reports: Waron Castillo of 193 Boylston St. at Vimar Designs; Yeurie Dume of 24 Walnut Park at Super Mario; and Yelitze Hernandez of 30 Bickford St. at D&D Communications.
Investigators also seized computers allegedly provided to the businesses by the gambling syndicate.
“We expect to find a large amount of evidence in those laptops and computers in the days and weeks to come,” Wark said, adding that further charges are possible.
Jesus Reynoso, 44, of Roslindale and Victor Rosado, 39, of Mattapan are charged with operating the gambling ring. They were also arrested in the bust. Police reportedly tracked the men by hiding Global Positioning System tracking devices on their cars.
Wark said that Conley’s claim of “violence” by the ring was a reference to Rosado’s role as an alleged “enforcer” who made sure that businesses hosting the gambling paid up. But Rosado has not been charged with any violent crime in the case.
People who placed bets with the alleged gambling ring probably don’t have to worry about being charged, Wark said.
“I’ll be honest,” he said. “Our primary concern is taking out people who are running the gambling operation and making money off it. There is a reluctance to go after the common man, the common woman, who is willing to take a chance on a wager.”
JP has a history of businesses getting busted for hosting illegal gambling, particularly in Egleston and Hyde Squares.
Local E-13 Police commander Capt. Christine Michalosky told the Gazette that such gambling sometimes “pertains to social things…cultural things.” For example, people with roots in other countries might want to bet on international sporting events, she said.
Unofficial, illegal betting based on the Dominican Republic’s national lottery is another favorite, Michalosky said. In that form of gambling, people may place bets based on the Dominican lottery’s winning number, or even acquire smuggled tickets. Some type of Dominican lottery gambling was part of the business of Reynoso and Rosado’s ring, Wark said.
But overall, Michalosky said, illegal gambling is not as widespread a problem as it once was.
“Years ago, it was huge,” she said. “When the [state] lottery came in [in 1971], that killed a lot of it.”
Lemma said he is worried about the impact of the major police raid on the business district as a whole.
“It’s not good for the square…You’re trying to have an area where people can come without any worry,” he said.
Lemma’s petition last fall focused on improving quality-of-life issues in the business district. Egleston Square Main Street (ESMS) took up the cause.
Lemma said he is still waiting for results.
“There isn’t any improvement. As we have been telling police, they haven’t had consistency,” he said, complaining that police patrols are good one week and scarce the next.
ESMS manager Clarissa Quintanilla also called the raids a “surprise.”
“That’s specifically why we have Main Street program—to make sure businesses are operating not only as best they can, but to make sure they’re doing it the right way,” she said in a Gazette interview.
“We’re continuing to work on those quality-of-life issues Solomon mentioned,” she added.
The recent gambling bust was named Operation Barbershop after the unusual way investigators say they learned about the alleged ring. An East Boston barbershop—one of the locations raided April 8—was the target of a brutal armed robbery last year. A victim of the robbery allegedly told police, “They were probably here for the gambling money,” triggering the investigation, Wark said.
D&D Communications was the target of a 2005 armed robbery by four teens, according to police incident reports. Wark said that incident did not trigger any part of the current gambling investigation.
Agencies involved in the raids and ongoing investigation include: the Boston Police Department Special Investigations Unit; State Police; the state and county DA’s offices; US Secret Service; US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; the IRS; and the FBI. E-13 police officers were involved in the local arrests.