San Diego

Card Room Owner Sentenced in Racketeering Conspiracy

The owner of a San Diego card room and casino was sentenced Monday to three years behind bars for running a racketeering ring out of his business, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. 

Sanders Bruce Segal, 66, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $222,000 in revenue he gained through bookmaking, money laundering and collecting unlawful debts, federal prosecutors said. 

Segal's Lucky Lady Casino and Card Room is located in the Mid-City area of San Diego and is a legitimate business offering wagering and card games. However, Segal used the business as a front for an illegal bookmaking ring, federal officials say. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation suspected two San Diego card club room operators of trying to bribe San Diego politicians to help save their business, according to affidavits.

In the affidavit, an FBI agent describes a call he intercepted between two bookmakers at Lucky Lady. He reported to the judge they were discussing lifting a provision in the San Diego municipal code that prevents the transfer of ownership of a casino.

The last of San Diego card rooms and small casinos are set to close their doors when their owners pass away because of a provision that prevents transfer or sale of ownership of card rooms.

The FBI agent wrote he believes at least one of the card room representatives made numerous attempts to bribe public officials. He reported in one call, two suspects talked about lifting the so-called Grandfather Clause to be able to sell Lucky Lady, and one said “I think I can get it done. If we agree on a price. It costs money to get this done.”

The targets of the wiretaps have been charged with money laundering and racketeering, but not with public corruption or bribery. No public officials have been indicted. The indictment mentioned San Diego City Council members but did not name them.

The U.S. Attorney's Office say Segal’s son Sydney Bruce Segal worked in the cash room of the casino and card room.  He is one of 12 defendants who have pleaded guilty to federal charges in the investigation, officials said. The 11 other defendants are Petter Magnus Karlsson, Pablo Ballestero Frech, Sydney Bruce Segal, Joseph Edward Spatafore, Minh Triet Dinh Nguyen, James Heng Tear, Ken Pheng Keo, Jason D. Taylor, Jeffrey Alan Burke, Ryan Richard Buchardt and Robert Jay Zaben.

Two remaining defendants, Stanley Samuel Penn and David Greg Leppo, are charged with racketeering conspiracy and operating an illegal gambling business. Their cases are set for a motion hearing on Friday, Feb. 9 and a jury trial on March 6 before Judge Roger T. Benitez.

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