A 15-member racketeering ring engaged in loansharking and extortion and sold methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy at casino and an East Bay card room, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.
Employees and others in the card rooms made loans ranging from $3,000 at 4 percent interest per day to $10,000 at 10 percent interest per week, with threats of reprisals and "a reputation for violence" guaranteeing repayment, the 60-page indictment alleges.
"The loansharks relied upon and were directly assisted by casino employees in these endeavors," the indictment says. "A loan obtained at one casino could be paid back at the other. The loansharks used threats and their reputation for violence to ensure repayments of the loans."
Police arrested 14 of the defendants; one, whose name was redacted, remains at large.
The defendants face multiple counts with sentences extending to life in prison, and all face possible deportation if convicted.
Ding Lin and Hung Tieu extended and collected debts at Artichoke Joe's, although neither was an employee of the casino.
Lin, Tieu, Tieu's brother Cuong Mach Binh Teiu, and Lap The Chung, Bob Yuen, Skyler Chang, Chea Bou, and May Chung allegedly conspired to sell drugs and extort money at Artichoke Joe’s and Emeryville’s Oaks Card Club, violating the federal RICO act.
In addition to racketeering, Teiu, Chung, Lin, Chang, and Bou face federal narcotics charges, and Chung, Yuen, Lin, Chung and Tieu with federal loansharking charges. The narcotics charges bring a possible life sentence. The enterprise included the manufacture of methamphetamine and MDMA, prosecutors allege.
Employees Thanh The Chu, Kwai Ping Wong, John Hinyu Chew, and Bao Tran extorted money from customers, according to prosecutors.
The defendants regularly commingled funds from legal and illegal operations, the indictment says.
A two-year probe by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the California Department of Justice Bureau of Gambling Control targeted Asian gaming sections of an undisclosed number of Bay Area card clubs, but closed in on Artichoke Joe’s on Hungtington Avenue and Oaks Card Club on San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville.
A swarm of state, federal and local law enforcement officers at about 6am Wednesday. Those present say they were frisked and interviewed before being allowed to leave. Customers were waved away throughout the day.
In the course of executing more than 20 search warrants in and beyond the Bay Area, agents seized several hundred thousand dollars in cash and thousands in gambling chips, jewelry and valuables. They also recovered firearms and several pounds of narcotics, records show.
The 105-year-old Artichoke Joe’s has been a reliable tax engine for the city. In addition, the venerable card club has donated money to schools and nonprofit organizations, and provided aid for victims of the Sept. 9 blast.