Illegal poker parlor busted

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign police hit the jackpot, so to speak, when they busted a gambling operation in west Champaign last week.

What they found was a pay-to-play poker game featuring refreshments and televisions going on inside a building in the 2700 block of Clark Road, just east of Duncan Road.

They also found — and seized — $3,000 cash, gaming tables, cards, poker chips, ledgers and two televisions.

Ten men and three women from three counties, ranging in age from 27 to 73, were given notices to appear in Champaign County Circuit Court in February to face a misdemeanor charge of gambling.

One of the 13, Scott Petticrew, 35, of Danville, was also cited for keeping a gambling establishment, also a misdemeanor.

"He had the key and said he was running the place," said Champaign police Lt. Michael Paulus, the commander of the city's southwest district where the gaming operation was discovered.

Paulus said that about four months ago, a citizen complained about the operation, so police began gathering information.

"We wanted to know how long it had been going on and how often was the gaming happening. We developed intelligence that told us there was a fairly regular schedule of events," he said.

Officers learned that there was usually a game every Wednesday night; some weeks featured games on a second weeknight.

Waiting until after the holidays, Paulus said they obtained a search warrant Tuesday and, on Wednesday, a group of patrol officers conducted what he described as a "low-key" raid.

When no one answered the knock on the door about 7:30 p.m., officers tried the door handle and found it unlocked.

"They were open for business. People were sitting around at the tables. There were only 13 people there," he said, adding that police had information that as many as 25 are often present.

Having information that the games usually start around 6:30 or 7 p.m. and run until 3 or 4 a.m., officers opted to go around 7:30 p.m. while the number of gamblers was manageable.

"We patted everybody down. All the currency was seized. Some people didn't have any money. Maybe they weren't winners that night. Some had quite a bit of money on them," Paulus said.

The $3,000 cash "was secreted away in different locations," he said, explaining that Petticrew had money on him and another wad of cash was found stuffed inside a machine designed to clear the room of cigarette smoke.

Paulus said there was no cash on the playing tables, just lots of chips and cards.

"There were things mounted on the wall that showed running totals. We got some ledgers. There were a couple of TVs," he said, adding that a basketball game was playing on one and an awards show on the other. There was also food and drink but no open alcohol on the tables, although alcohol was present. "They were planning on playing a long time."

Paulus said the patrons were a "little shocked" by the police raid but said everyone remained calm and cooperative. A few grumbled about the officers having better things to do with their time.

"Like I told the people there, I don't go out looking for this. People complained. This was a coordinated, calculated setup. It was advertised by word of mouth and on Facebook," he said.

Paulus declined to say who registered the complaint about the gambling operation, but near the unit where the gambling was going on are a youth center and fitness, welding and lawn care businesses, just to name a few.

"The number of people, some of the clientele coming around — this activity was not what this person wanted to see going on," Paulus said of the citizen who contacted police.

One of the men given a notice to appear has a pending felony case in Champaign County for armed violence, aggravated unlawful use of weapons, and possession of controlled substance. Another was also cited for having cannabis in his car, which a drug-sniffing dog alerted police to.

Paulus said that a couple of years ago, the department broke up a similar gaming operation in west Champaign that they learned of after a wife complained of her husband gambling away his paycheck.

"We know there are collateral things that happen with gambling and some can be rather serious. This shouldn't be happening. There's legal gambling in Illinois. These things are not legal," he said, adding that police are aware of four or five other games in town and are continuing to investigate those as well.

Paulus said some of the patrons talked to police but Petticrew was not one of them.

"We didn't get a whole lot of information. Some people did confirm what we knew. Other people said it was their first time," he said.

Three of the 13 were from Champaign. The others listed hometowns of Rantoul, Urbana, Mahomet, Arcola, Monticello, Armstrong, Oakwood, Georgetown, Danville and Hoopeston.

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sameeker wrote on January 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Thats right, just bust a bunch of guys getting together for a weekly card game. They were right, the police have nothing better to do, like stopping the crime in campus town or the corruption in the government. I am so SICK of the police state and will boycott all of the businesses in the area until whoever "complained" is flushed out. Although, I doubt that anyone did. I notice that they sure sucked up all of the money in a hurry.

vnp wrote on January 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

EXACTLY.....  minding their own business, and where is the money the police took????

jdmac44 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 2:01 am

The horror. Consenting adults gathering peaceably on one of their properties to engage in activities of their choosing using money they earned with their own time and labor. The CPD had time for this but I couldn't get them to act on fraudulent use of my illegally intercepted credit card number.

cwdog57 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 7:01 am

everyone knows there are two sets of rules this one is the"DON'T DO AS I DO, DO AS I SAY"rule. is that the first rule or second....hum...i'm not sure?

simplecitizen wrote on January 16, 2012 at 8:01 am

Unbelievable.  I know the police don't go around looking for these things, but have to do something when a complaint is made.  Do they really?  I recall being told they couldn't do anything when my car was vandalized a few years back.  But this they can gather information over several months?  These people were not hurting anyone.  I guarantee you that some of the officers involved have their own poker game they play in, probably very similar to this one.

theSane wrote on January 16, 2012 at 8:01 am

I am surprised the swat team was not used to bust this association of hardened criminals.  I expect in the future when the other four known local games are raided the police will not take such personal risks and will send them in.  Who knows what other kinds of criminal activities are occuring in these lairs of sin and debauchery!  Everyone knows gambling establishments are all associated with the mob, protection rackets, and drug trafficing.  I expect we will all soon hear about many more scandalizing items that were confiscated during this raid.  I am sure the "chips" mentioned in this article are just a code word for something else.

Jsmith68 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

Ok so I am a bit confused by the comments. The police are being bashed in some for doing their jobs and in others for not doing their jobs.  I heard about this incident this weekend and had contact with a few officers.  From my understanding several years ago this exact same type of conduct was going on and someone walked in and tried to rob them.  In the process they shot off their gun and eventually got arrested.  They received a complaint and acted on it. A citizen, just like you, called and knew the activity that was going on and didn't want it happening in their area.  If it was so okay to do then why didn't the person running it put up a sign outside and try to get more players?  Obviously from the clientele probably not a place you would want your husband or son to be at.  One guy is already out on bond for armed offenses with drugs, another has weed while playing.  If this was going on next to  your house or business  you probably would not like it either.  As for the cops playing poker.  You are probably absolutelly right they probably are. The difference is a few guys in a garage every other weekend versus some guy running an operation and making some money off the deal.  For those of you that apparently have some type of problem with what the police do with your vandalized car or credit card being illegaly used I offer the following solution.  Call or walk into the police department.  Find out who the investigating officer is on each of these cases and find out what is going on with the case.  Stop whining and follow the process. 

scollins4443 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 10:01 am
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Look whose whining! You are defending the process, good. Since you have all the details of the arrest, good. Since you know know all of this, what did the warrant specify? That's the law! Tell us please.

Beem wrote on January 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I also agree with everything Jsmith68 said. This isn't just a few guys/gals getting together for a friendly game. I'd also like to know if Petticrew has a regular job or if this is his full-time endeavor. The IRS might be interested also. I'm assuming they can't tax illegal earnings but there could be a few other issues.

scollins4443 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 10:01 am
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Wow. Is this all the CPD has to do is to invade the privacy of someone's fun time? I don't see them busting up the firemens games I know they have every thursday. And you will not produce the complaining person because there isn't one! Someone got nosey and told the cops there was "probably" illegal drug activity and they looked into it and found nothing to indicate the complaint. They knew something was going on but couldn't figure out what. They obtained a warrant from what judge and what did the police tell the judge what was the probable cause? They can only seize what's on the warrant. I would like to veiw the warrant. This is sad when a few people get together for some fun to have it broken up by the police state of Illinois. They got the money which was hidden. If it wasn't in plain veiw the police has to return the money. Did the warrant specifically saywhere to search? A good attorney will get everything back and the charges are ficticious at best because of the warrant specifications! Good Day

asparagus wrote on January 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

I'm glad the police did their job. Sounds like a fairly well handled affair. I sure would not want an operation like this in my neighborhood.

JDG613 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

It's good to see that someone has some logic behind their comments.  Jsmith, I am in full agreement with you, and find your position to be very well-thought and reasonable.  Seems to me that most of the negative comments come from people who have not gotten the response they wanted from the police, not because they think running a private, behind-the-scenes gambling operation is okay.

diberard wrote on January 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

To those of you bashing the police: If you didn't notice, the area they listed has no residential properties, they're all commercial. Therefore this wasn't just someone's home game with their buddies. All of the contradictory evidence you provided (policemen and firemen playing, etc.), while technically illegal, are not at the level of literally setting up shop in some warehouse or whatever, so keep that in mind.

Also, whoever is stupid enough to advertise on Facebook and keep ledgers deserves to get arrested.

simplecitizen wrote on January 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Just to clarify due to the responses regarding some of my earlier comments:  I am not meaning to bash the police, I am a supporter of law and order.  Its just a little criticism, thats all.  I think this was time wasted on something that was not hurting anyone in any way.  

theSane wrote on January 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The police did nothing wrong, but society was not made better and Champaign was not made safer by this bust.  It was a waste of man hours/overtime.

hd2006 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Did you ever think that maybe the parents dropping their children off reat the youth center the next door over feel their children are safer now.  Or are they not allowed to have the same sense of security for their families as you or I. Maybe it would have been better if this was taking place in someones basement not next to a youth center.

Jsmith68 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Lot of interesting comments on here.  For the poster who says this wasn't hurting anyone.  Lets say a prostitute starts walking up and down the street in front of your house.  She's not hurting anyone.  The next thing you know there are three walking in front of your house and cars are parking on the street.  Still not hurting one right?  But, I do suspect you would call the police right?

Every law enforcement study on the subject has shown that crime spurs on more crime.  These people are playing cards, including some people that appear to be not so nice.  So after a few months more people start playing.  Next thing you know it is every night.  So everyone is thirsty lets start serving alcohol and invite more people.  So now we have a bunch of people, some probably don't even know the names of the people they are playing with together drinking in what appears to bascially be a storage unit.  Don't know what anyone else thinks but this appears to be kindling for a bigger problem.  I know the fight will be why didn't the police just walk up and tell them to stop.  These are grown adults committing a crime and trying to hide it (although not very well)  Sounds like the police nipped a problem in the bud, end of story.

sameeker wrote on January 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm

jsmith - People can always find some excuse to rationalize telling other people what to do. I think it is time to use the same tactic to start dealing with the so called "religious" people out there. Those church meetings can get quite noisy, and maybe a neighbor who works nights does not want to be woke up by the noise every Sunday morning. The increased traffic is a hazard to children in the area also. People who can't pay their bills go to church and put their families money in the collection under the guise that the money will come back to them many times over. The IRS should take an interest in how much money they are making tax free. They make a show of handing out food or clothing around the holidays; however, how many of them have written a check to keep a family out of foreclosure since the homeowner is unemployed? How much should they be paying in property taxes on the huge and magnificint buildings that they posess? It is a two way street and you can't have it both ways. Every player in the game should demand a 12 man jury and cost the county as much as possible. Cut off the money and you kill the snake.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm

What's the matter with driving to Peoria, or another licensed casino?  At least, the taxpayers get a cut of it.  All of these complaints about the police busting an illegal gambling operation, and the pathetic rant against religion makes no sense.  The House always has the edge.  Why not gamble at a place where some of the profit goes to taxes?  This was a homemade operation that needed shut down.  Maybe, a mobile casino can be approved by the legislators?  Sort'a like a bookmobile.  It could be moved to various locations.  It could be parked outside of factories, banks, bars, campuses, and shopping malls.  Maybe even your neighborhood.

Jsmith68 wrote on January 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Hey Sam......Church is legal, running a gambling ring is not.  

sameeker wrote on January 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Churches have caused much personal and financial damage to people across the country. If they are going to be so uptite about gambling, then they should be outlawed. America belongs to everybody and there is no need for the law to be picking on a poker game (not a gambling ring as some of the paranoid elements on here describe it as). At the very least, they should be paying into the tax system like everybody else. I stand by my view that the police should be going after the real criminals instead of raking revenue from people at every opportunity.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 17, 2012 at 10:01 am

Pardon my previous sarcasm.  My point was that there is "legal" gambling in state licensed casinos which are supposed to generate tax dollars.  I do not gamble; but I do not condemm those who do gamble.  I think it is a dangerous habit though.  I have seen too many families suffer because of money lost by a family member.  My sarcasm of having a "book mobile" type casino was to have indicated that.  Sorry that I did not make it more clear for you previously.   I am not opposed to religion has long as it does not divide, or persecute other people.  I definitely do not support illegal gambling by a group establishing their own casino.  Hope that I made it more clear this time.  One of my family members reminded me that sometimes my sarcasm is misunderstood; and she is always right.  

opinions1973 wrote on January 17, 2012 at 11:01 am

Hey News-Gazette,  Where are the names of the other people who were given notices to appear in court?  You only listed the name of the idividual running the place, what about the other 12 or so...