NORWALK, Conn. – An illegal gambling establishment in Norwalk – where tens of thousands of dollars were exchanged on a weekly basis – was raided late Wednesday, leading to the arrests of six people, according to Norwalk police.
The Casino Royal, which is on the third floor of 94 East Ave., had been under investigation by the Norwalk police for the better part of three years and is believed to have been in operation for about seven years, said Lt. Jim Walsh, head of the department’s Special Services Division.
“This was the most organized and largest illegal establishment of this type in Norwalk as far as we know,” said Walsh, adding that the primary game played there was Texas Hold ‘em poker. “It was known throughout the region.”
In part, what made it an illegal gambling operation, Walsh said, was that the house took a cut of the gambling pots, and there was a "lack of bona fide social engagement among the participants."
Social and other clubs can hold "casino nights" for charity and such, Walsh said, but this was different.
"These were strangers meeting furtively for the purpose of gambling," he said.
A total of 29 officers took part in the 10:30 p.m. raid, where the department seized five gaming tables, gambling paraphernalia – including custom-made chips – gambling records and $3,200 in cash. The operation had a reinforced door, surveillance cameras and a fully stocked kitchen. No guns, drugs or alcohol were found on the premises.
Police rented a U-Haul truck to cart off the seized items.
“They tried to keep a low profile,” said Walsh, adding that there are other, unrelated legitimate businesses in the building, including a marketing company.
Additional arrests were expected.
At the time of the raid, 33 people were inside and police had to break down the door to gain entry. The six arrested were the manager, pit boss and four dealers, and the other 27 people were patrons who were not charged, Walsh said. Those 27 people were identified and photographed, he added.
One of the patrons, whose name was not disclosed, ran into another room after officers broke in, and he jumped out of a third-story window. He suffered serious but undisclosed injuries and was taken to Norwalk Hospital, police said. He was later airlifted to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he is listed in critical condition, according to Walsh.
“This was a major illegal gambling operation,” said Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik. “We were aware of it for quite a while, but it took time to build the case.”
Both Kulhawik and Walsh said the investigation is continuing, including a look into any possible connections with organized crime.
“There may be some informal ties to organized crime in southwestern Connecticut and lower New York,” said Walsh.
Arrested on charges of gambling, conspiracy and related charges were Pedro Couto, 34, of Trumbull, who was accused of being the manager, and Andre Rodriguez, 32, of the Bronx, N.Y., accused of being the pit boss. Also arrested were Kevin Mollo, 32, of Glasser Street in Norwalk; Veronika Drozdova, 22, of Bridgeport; Fernando Marin, 31, of Strawberry Hill Avenue in Stamford; and Daniel Rehm, 30, of New Rochelle, N.Y., all accused of being dealers
Each posted $5,000 bond and was released. They are scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court on June 27.
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