SAN ANTONIO – A huge illegal gambling bust on the city’s North Side is even larger than anyone previously thought, according to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.
The sheriff held a news brief late Thursday morning, updating some of the numbers he had reported previously.
Salazar said members of a newly-formed organized crime task force led the investigation that resulted in a raid Wednesday evening on a non-descript building located in the 3700 block of Blanco Road.
As of Thursday morning, Salazar said investigators had discovered hundreds of working and non-working gambling machines.
They also seized about $130,000 in cash and more than $175,000 worth of vehicles, $45,000 worth of property, seven guns as well as a stash of illegal drugs.
Salazar said of the 29 people who were detained, eight were arrested on various charges and outstanding warrants.
A 16-year-old girl was also detained, but Salazar said she was reported as a missing person.
“We did reunite her with her family, but we are continuing to interview the young lady to make sure that she wasn’t the victim of something,” he said.
Salazar said the case is not closed.
“We do have plans to continue that investigation,” he said. “I am not ruling out that other people may be looped into this. It’s a criminal conspiracy. We are going after an organized crime case, an organized crime charge.”
Salazar said he plans to seize the building, itself.
He asks anyone who has information about this case or any other organized crime, such as drugs or prostitution, to call the organized crime hotline at 210-335-GANG (4264).
Salazar said his organized crime unit had been acting on tips they received when they began conducting surveillance on the building.
He said at one point, some of those investigators posed as customers of the gambling establishment.
Watch Paul Venema’s report below:
The raid came as a welcome surprise to some of the people who live in the area.
Esther Duenas said after decades in the neighborhood, she began to notice a change about six months ago.
“We couldn’t sleep at night,” Duenas said. “It was just loud and we just saw too (many) people going back and forth in the middle of the night. It was just 24/7.”
Several neighbors told KSAT 12 News they had more than a hunch about what was happening inside.
At one point, Duenas said she pulled out her phone and snapped a few pictures.
“In one of them, you could see a slot machine and then, so we knew there was some kind of gambling,” she said.
Still, the raid came as a bit of a surprise.
Duenas said she was caught off-guard by the SWAT officers and other investigators storming into the building, creating quite a commotion in the usually quiet neighborhood.
But Duenas said the noise was a small price to pay for what she hopes will be many more peaceful nights to come.
“I’m hoping things will get a little bit more (restful) for everybody here,” she said.
Salazar said other nearby residents are also happy about the raid.
“We are getting people driving by giving us the thumbs up that they’re happy to see this place going away,” he said.
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