FBI unseals indictment against 25 people in gambling, money laundering conspiracy
An indictment naming against 25 conspirators involved in sex trafficking, bookmaking, and money laundering was unsealed last week in San Diego. The men allegedly ran a nationwide illegal gambling operation, laundered millions in proceeds, and trafficked women for prostitution from Tijuana, where they worked from an office, and the home of a US citizen, Jeffery Broadt a primary defendant in the case.
The case is a fascinating look at San Diego, from the corruption and money in politics, to the high stakes poker games held in Rancho Santa Fe mansions, with gaudy luxury vehicles out front, and powerful men with bankrolls inside, being catered to by prostitutes, chefs, and servers. The women were trafficked from Tijuana, at the direction of the lead defendant David 'Fat Dave' Stroj, a longtime bookmaker with multiple convictions, and a prior case linking him with the Philadelphia mafia.
The owners of the casinos are linked to contributions to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a San Diego 'good old boy', and wealthy businessman, who was elected after Bob Filner was displaced after a scandal involing his groping and sexual assault of dozens of women, in 2013. Harvey Souza is the owner of the Seven Mile, formerly the Palomar, that re opened in July 2015, after the inital raids on both casinos. Mary Salas, the mayor of Chula Vista, spoke and posed during the reopening. The business contributes about 500,000 in tax revenue to the city, yearly. Harvey Souza and Naseem 'Nick' Saleem, the Palomar manager are charged with failure to have money laundering protections in place, and facilitating illegal gambling. One instance on the search warrant affidavit details a conversation in which Stroj talks about depositing 50,000 checks into the Palomar, and 'there are no problems for me'.
San Diego has long had card rooms, a confusing purgatory between legal gambling like Vegas, and tribal gaming like Sycuan, a sort of halfway point, in areas like Chula Vista and El Cajon boulevard, the customers are gamblers, criminals, and combinations the two. The two named in the case were the Seven Mile Club in Chula Vista, formerly directly adjacent to a strip club, and the Palomar on El Cajon boulevard, a longstanding hotbed of drugs and prostitution, from the street to the card club itself.
Enter Fat Dave, and his gambling business, which had clients from Arizona, New Mexico, to Florida. Stroj recruited financiers, enforcers sub bookies and sub agents who recruited, collected, and managed the sprawling gambling operation, that came under investigation by the FBI in October 2013. The documents allege Stroj earned, and lost hundreds of thousands throughout, and his gambling business at points grossed 2 million a month. Dave rubbled shoulders with San Diego and Tijuana businessmen, who gambled and partied with him. Stroj was indicted in 2008, Operation Costa Delcro, a bookmaking, loan sharking, and drug dealing conspiracy in Delaware. It is unknown if he was sentenced in local or federal court.
|Mary Salas, and Harvey Souza, middle.|
He ran operations from a home in Valley Center Escondido, and a condo in the Gaslamp district on fifth and K, the Trellis building, as well as leading defendant Jeffery Broadt's office/home in Tijuana. Stroj was a figure downtown in the clubs and bars, often in the company of indicted coconspirators, bottle service and VIP tables. A meeting documented in the search warrant affidavit took place at Nobu, at the Hard Rock, in which Stroj paid a client his winnings in a paper bag, and discussed the seizure of 185,000 in New Mexico, which partially belonged to Stroj.
The charging documents indicate the conspiracy began in 2013, but it was likely a year or so earlier at least. Online sites, utilized by almost all the customers, and based in Costa Rica handled much of the business, customers were recruited or referred to the services, were they placed their bets and received their winnings. The high end card games and blackjack nights were bankrolled by the lead defendants. Sub bookies and sub agents received a portion of the losses of their clients, up to 30%.
Jefferey Stoff, ran a bail bonds business and became involved with conspiracy in 2014, offering to use his business again to help Stroj launder profits, and becoming a part of the gambling operation. Jeffery Broadt, a US citizen who lived in Playas De Tijuana, frequented strip clubs, and trafficked girls, along with Stroj to Rancho Santa Fe, and Las Vegas. In another repugnant example of sex trafficking and sex tourism, Broadt pimped out girl from places like Adeltias in Zona Norte, places where poverty and desperation force women into prostitution, where they are abused, raped, and degraded by employers and customers.
The girls paid the 'house' a 10% fee, and 30% kickback to Broadt, who bought them plane tickets and escorted them through immigration, where they claimed they were masseuses. The women admitted to the investigators during interviews they were paid from 1,000 to 2,000. Broadt and Stroj are charged with trafficking the girls in two instances in fall 2014.
Stroj used Arturo Diaz, as his enforcer and right hand man, who frequently was charged with collecting money from customers, whom the sub bookies and sub agents failed to collect. Excepts from the wiretap evidence, applied for and collected in 2015 and 2014, from Stroj two cellphones show examples of this, and others, sometimes amusing...
"You came to me for HELP and I loaned you 200,000 and nowYOU disrespect me and hang up!!!
"Call me back or I'm selling your debt to Arturo"
"You don't owe me anymore, you now owe Arturo"
"Arturo has his guys ready to run into resturaunts to make collections"
"Jeff and I are going to make a bank for the blackjack, because the Mexicans want to play"
"Listen, all my life I was a scientist, a biochemist before I was a bookmaker"
Stroj is facing charges of money laundering conspiracy, along with 20 others in the indictment, as well as prostitution charges, and illegal gambling. He surrendered to the FBI at the Sorrento Valley offices, as the indictment came down. In October 2014 raids were conducted at many defendants homes and offices, and hundreds of items seized, including cell phones and nearly a 100k in cash. Many defendants were interviewed by the FBI and made incriminating statements, admitting to gambling and bookmaking. Despite this, the flashy group of alleged conspirators continued to conduct their activities and talked on lines that were compromised. Stroj was the only member to have his phone wire tapped, the wire monitored incoming and outgoing communications, and a pen register was applied to his phone in 2015.
The members of the conspiracy are a cross section of San Diego, including a Barona Tribal gaming employee, Greg Kolk, wealthy Tijuana businessmen, a former managing director to the Tijuana Xolos, linked to Jorge Hank Rohn, Ricardo Castellanos Velasquez, and various sleazy hanger ons and lackeys, who courier money and enjoyed the lifestyle. Stroj will be facing the most severe sentence, due to his priors, and the ability of the lower defendants to testify against him. Many of those indicted exchanged hundreds of texts and calls with Stroj, and could easily testify against him. Stroj's own brother, an Orange County attorney, Robert Stroj is among the indicted also.
It is likely that the 2013 arrest and likely cooperation of Eric & Jan Portecarreo, and their dozens of sub bookies and sub agents, in a very similar indictment, contributed to the FBI's initial investigation. Homeland Security, the DOJ, the San Diego Sheriffs Department, the IRS, also contributed to the building of the case.
Despite the splash and press releases, the cases will likely wind slowly through federal court, with many being released on bail, because of their ability to put up substantial assets for collateral, many will cooperate, and receive minor sentences and fines.
Link to US Attorney Office press release and names of indicted: http://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/twenty-five-people-charged-members-10-million-illegal-gambling-and-money-laundering
Link to search warrant
Sources: UT San Diego, NBC San Diego, US Attorneys Office