Posted by : December 19, 2014| On :
By David Webb
ATHENS–Raids on game rooms in the Cedar Creek Lake area Tuesday mark the start of a crackdown on illegal gambling in Henderson County, according to local law enforcement officials.
Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee and Sheriff Ray Nutt announced the initiative in a press conference after the execution of five search warrants earlier in the day. Law enforcement officers closed four game rooms in Eustace, Tool, Seven Points and Cap City, and they searched the Gun Barrel City home of the game rooms’ owner, John George Desanto.
Desanto, 53, was arrested on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and money laundering in the amount of $20,000 to $100,000, which is a second-degree felony, McKee said. At the time of his arrest on the charges related to illegal gambling, Desanto was out of jail on a $15,000 bond for the alleged manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs in October.
Desanto’s criminal record dates back to 2007, and it includes other arrests for organized criminal activity and illegal drug activity, according to Henderson County’s judicial record website.
The raids and Desanto’s arrest follow a yearlong investigation by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Texas State Comptroller. McKee’s office requested the launch of the investigation. Thirty agents using all of their resources, including aircraft and cameras, participated in the investigation.
No one was arrested during the raids Tuesdays for illegal gambling, which is a Class C Misdemeanor, Nutt said. There was one arrest in Eustace related to the illegal possession of controlled substances.
McKee said law enforcement officers spent the day at all of Desanto’s business locations and his home searching safes and other “nooks and crannies.” A safe deposit box at Prosperity Bank also was searched, along with Desanto’s bank account records.
McKee said he expects the prosecution of Desanto to put an end to the small chain of game rooms he operated. He acknowledged game rooms reopened quickly in the past after previous raids.
The four game rooms operated a total of about 200 eight-liners. Law enforcement officers seized two full machines and the motherboards of the other 198 to put them out of commission.
“This investigation has taken almost a year,” McKee said. “We’ve done a lot more research than in the past.”
McKee said Henderson County law enforcement officials are grateful to state law enforcement officers for their help. “We couldn’t have done it locally without their help,” he said.
The investigation included the use of undercover officers going into the game rooms. The case against Desanto will be presented to a grand jury.
McKee said the operation of the game rooms needed to cease because they generated “unregulated money that was not being taxed and going out of the community for other purposes.”
The sheriff agrees that the recent raids will be more effective in shutting down the game rooms than in the past. “They won’t be as likely to open back up,” he said.
Other games rooms believed to be participating in illegal gambling remain open in Henderson County, but they are under scrutiny as well, Nutt said. Illegal gambling taking place on eight-liners in nightclubs and other businesses also risk legal proceedings, he warned.
The unadvertised game rooms are promoted by word of mouth, he noted.
Eight-liners are automated game machines similar to slot machines in casinos. Possession of an eight-liner machine is not illegal, but gambling on them is.
“This is the beginning,” Nutt said. “The game rooms are illegal, and they have a lot of dope going into them. A lot of people are playing in the game rooms who can’t afford to lose their money.”
Nutt said that in addition to illegal gambling and drug activity, the game rooms sometimes are the targets of armed robberies, making them dangerous for patrons. “We’re eventually going to wind up with a homicide,” he said.
McKee said illegal activity in game rooms is a problem in all of the state’s 254 counties, and the Texas Legislature needs to address the problem. “We have this problem everywhere,” McKee said. “The legislators need to take a look at it and do something.”
Posted by : December 19, 2014| On :
By Erik Walsh
Monitor Sports Editor
BROWNSBORO–The Mabank Lady Panthers relied on solid performances from their veteran core when they traveled to Brownsboro for the East Texas Shootout last weekend. Seniors Madison and Meagan Holyfield anchored the team on offensive and defense, while sophomore sparkplug Carson Marsh chipped-in on scoring with a nice shooting touch. Mabank finished its final tournament before the Christmas break with a quality showing and a 3-2 record, good for sixth place out of 30.
Action began Dec. 11 and Mabank was tested against two teams, Fairfield and Pine Trees. The Lady Panthers were victorious in both contests and finished the first day of play, 2-0.
The game against Fairfield was a particularly close match. Mabank pulled out the narrow victory 49-46 against a tough Lady Eagles squad. Madison Holyfield led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, while her sister Meagan secured a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Marsh added 14 points in the winning cause.
The Lady Panthers had a little bit more breathing room against Pine Trees, gaining a nine-point, 55-46 victory. Marsh led the offense with 19 points and added five rebounds, while Madison Holyfield scored 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Meagan Holyfield scored 13 points and Brittni Anthony showed her defensive wizardry with four steals.
With its two victories the previous day, Mabank moved on to the winners bracket Dec. 12. The day was cut short after just one game, a 51-40 loss to the Peaster Lady Greyhounds. Meagan Holyfield scored 14 points, Madison Holyfield added 11 and Marsh scored 12 points and grabbed 5 rebounds.
The Lady Panthers played two more games to dictate their placement on the final day tournament Dec. 13. Neither game, both a win and a loss, was very close.
Springhill was up first and Mabank blew them out of the water 52-36. The 16-point victory was their largest of the tournament. Madison Holyfield scored a tournament team-high 23 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Meagan Holyfield scored 15 points to go with her eight rebounds, and Marsh added 10 more points.
Alba Golden ended the tournament for Mabank, handing the Lady Panthers a 67-38 loss. Madison Holyfield had 15 points and seven rebounds, Meagan Holyfield 12 points and eight rebounds and Carson Marsh seven points.
Head Coach Christie Shoulders said Mabank held its own against a field of very strong teams and should be proud of what they did.
“I am extremely proud of how we played in the Brownsboro tournament,” Shoulders said.
“There were many strong teams at the tournament and the girls really stepped up to the challenge and competed.”
Mabank’s big three put up good numbers throuhout the tourney. Madison Holyfield averaged 16.8 points and 4.6 rebounds, Meagan Holyfield13.4 points and 5.6 rebounds and Carson Marsh 12.4 points and 4 rebounds.
The 3-2 showing in Brownsboro lifted Mabank’s record to 8-7 overall. The Lady Panthers next games will be at the Kaufman Holiday Tournament Dec. 29-30.
Posted by : December 19, 2014| On :
Special to The Monitor
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving central East Texas is warning consumers about a scam in which someone claiming to be with “the government” is giving out a grant if the resident sends them money.
Consumers are getting phone calls telling them they received a grant from “the government,” and they may spend the funds however they want. But in order to get the grant, the caller asks you to buy a Green Dot MoneyPak card and load it with money.
They request the numbers off the back of the card and then they take your money. Consumers don’t get any grant money and they lose their own money in the process.
“Consumers should always be cautious of unsolicited phone calls where the caller states you have won money,” BBB of central East Texas Chief Executive Officer and President Mechele Agbayani Mills said.
“Without doing your homework, you could end up losing money instead.”
BBB encourages consumers to sign up for the Texas Do Not Call List by calling 1(866) 896-6225 or by going to www.texasnocall.com.
Also, be cautious when using a Green Dot MoneyPak reloadable card. Once you give the number out, there is no way of tracking who has the money. BBB encourages not wiring money to individuals you don’t know.
BBB provides the following additional tips for dealing with this scam:
• government grants have to be applied for in order to receive. If you didn’t apply for the grant, you won’t receive one either.
• The government doesn’t call you to contact you for such matters. You will not receive information about government grants through a phone call.
• If you get one of these calls, hang up. You may be tempted to call back, but this will only give the scammer another opportunity to steal your information.
• Don’t give out your personal information to someone you don’t know. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or Social Security number to an unsolicited caller or anyone you don’t know.
According to grants.gov, the FTC points out you shouldn’t have to pay fees for a “free” government grant.
If you would like to apply for a grant, go to grants.gov. This website provides all of the federal grant opportunities including different types of grants, rules for applying and how to track your submissions.
To report those pretending to hand out grants on the government’s behalf to 1(800) 447-8477.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org.
To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline at (903) 581-8373.