San Diego

FBI Suspected Bribery Attempts by Card Room Operators: Docs

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 revealed in a federal court case.

In the 2015 documents, an FBI agent asked a judge for permission to continue a wire-tap and to monitor electronic communications in an investigation into alleged illegal money laundering and bookmaking at Lucky Lady, a casino and card club in the Mid-City area of San Diego.

In July 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced 14 men were charged with various crimes, including Racketeering Conspiracy to Conduct Enterprise Affairs (RICO), for allegedly using Lucky Lady as a front business for an illegal bookmaking ring.

In 2015, the agent reported to the judge; he also suspected the operators were trying to bribe San Diego councilmembers into letting them transfer ownership of the last remaining San Diego casinos, according to the federal court records obtained exclusively by NBC7 Investigates.

The documents are now coming to light in connection with a motion to suppress filed by the defense attorney.

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.

In the affidavit, the agent describes a call he previously intercepted between two people he describes as 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.”

In another call, the FBI agent wrote Sanders Bruce Segal, now the lead defendant in the U.S. Attorney’s money laundering case, was bragging about his influence over the City Council to another defendant, Joseph Edwards Spatafore, a high stakes player who was trying to negotiate the sale of Lucky Lady, according to the docs.

“I was locked up, and I got them votes,” Segal told Joseph Edward Spatafore, the FBI agent reported to the judge, writing that Segal was describing his widespread influence over politicians despite being incarcerated.

NBC 7 reached out to the attorney for the Lucky Lady and provided the affidavits to her; she is reviewing them and said she would do an interview with us soon.

The defendants have entered not guilty pleas.

Contact Us