Area District Attorney Jose Aliseda has drawn a line in the sand for eight-liner offenders in Bee, Live Oak and McMullen counties.
“If this doesn’t stop, there are going to be consequences,” the DA said late last week. “I’m going to do whatever it takes... These people need to pack up and leave.”
These offenders certainly have reason to believe the DA is not kidding.
On April 1, Aliseda coordinated a raid at an eight-liner game room in Skidmore. Authorities seized more than $17,000 in cash, contraband and equipment used for criminal activity. They also seized the building itself as well as the land on which the illegal activities took place. The establishment owner and staff were arrested. The patrons were questioned and informed they would be appearing before a grand jury to answer more questions regarding the eight-liner business.
Aliseda said the raid provided an excellent illustration of the parties he is targeting in this matter—the land owners who can lose any property they rent out if it is used for illegal gambling, the managers who can lose their liberty for operating illegal gambling dens, and the patrons who can be hauled before a grand jury to testify about the illegal activities.
“I want all three of these different parties to know we are doing something about this, and I want them out of my jurisdiction,” Aliseda said. “Shutting the place down in Skidmore was to send a message—we will do this one by one or nine by nine if we have to.”
At the behest of Aliseda, authorities are currently writing down the license plate numbers of cars spotted at such establishments. The DA said he intends to seek the assistance of Live Oak County Sheriff’s Department, any McMullen County authorities, and the police departments of Three Rivers and George West if the illegal venture does not stop.
“These places are public nuisances,” the DA said. “Besides feeding the addiction for gambling, there are other crimes surrounding them. Many serve alcohol, and people and patrons are spending their last dimes and dollars there.”
Assistant District Attorney Jon West, who was specifically hired to prosecute cases in Live Oak and McMullen Counties, said areas in which eight-liner businesses operate tend to attract time and criminals. And they don’t have access to the kind of security as, say, casinos in Las Vegas.
“We certainly don’t have that level of security here,” West said. “As a consequence, these areas can be really dangerous.”
“There is a lot of easy money here, and the people in this places could be prey to robberies,” the DA said. “The money is going to organized crime. These middlemen managing the places are just passing on the profits to their bosses and keeping a wall between those bosses and everyone else. There’s a lot of money going through here every day. I’d say $5,000 to $10,000 profits. If you multiply that by how many establishments, that’s how much money is not going to the community. This money doesn’t go for good things.”
Aliseda said he didn’t realize the problem was so prevalent in Live Oak until he spoke with law enforcement about it last year.
Meanwhile, in a separate matter involving the DA’s office:
• On behalf of his boss, West presented a $5,000 donation check to representatives of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Coastal Bend at a special April 3 charity event at the Omni Bayfront Hotel in Corpus Christi.
“The center does a magnificent job of helping young victims,” West said.
“Imagine a 5-year-old (crime victim) in a police station surrounded by men in uniform who have guns,” he said. “Odds are, the child, who is asked to make a statement, will not have a pleasant experience. The child will be guarded in everything that is said, and it will be hard to get any information. This organization makes the comfort level of such children a priority, which in turn helps the entire process.”
DA Aliseda said the donation from his department was taken from a special forfeiture fund that collects proceeds from criminals.
“Really, taking the illegal proceeds of criminals and using them to fight criminals is what the forfeiture process is all about,” he said.
Ben Tinsley is the reporter and editor of The Progress in Three Rivers, Texas. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BenTinsley or on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.