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Tue Jan 27, 2015, 09:23 AM

Virginia: Fairfax SWAT team raids high stakes Great Falls poker game, seizes cash, terrifies players

Hat tip, DCist: Morning Roundup: Road Less Traveled Edition

Fairfax SWAT team raids high stakes Great Falls poker game, seizes cash, terrifies players

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By Tom Jackman January 27 at 5:00 AM

On a quiet weeknight among the stately manors of Great Falls, ten men sat around a table in the basement of a private home last November playing high stakes poker. Suddenly, masked and heavily armed SWAT team officers from the Fairfax County Police Department burst through the door, pointed their assault rifles at the players and ordered them to put their hands on the table. The players complied. Their cash was seized, including a reported $150,000 from the game’s host, and eight of the ten players were charged with the Class 3 misdemeanor of illegal gambling, punishable by a maximum fine of $500. The minimum buy-in for the game was $20,000, with re-buys allowed if you lost your first twenty grand.

This was not your everyday cash game with the neighbors. The buy-in was twice what it costs to enter the World Series of Poker’s main event in Las Vegas (though the Great Falls players did not have to pay the whole $20,000 up front). Two established poker pros were at the Great Falls table and another was hosting the game, taking a roughly 1.5 percent cut from the buy-ins to pay for two dealers and two assistants to make coffee runs or give massages to the players. “Taking a cut” is what elevates a poker game, in the minds of the Fairfax police, into a criminal enterprise. But the host has not been charged and the search warrant used to raid the house remains sealed and declined to comment. ... One regular at the game said he glanced out the French doors in the basement, and “I saw these helmets bobbing up and down” in the darkened backyard. The shadowy figures yelled that they were Fairfax County police with a search warrant, then opened the door and about eight officers in black marched in. “They were all yelling, ‘Does anybody have a weapon?’ and ‘please don’t move’” at the seated players, the player said. “One pointed his assault rifle at me and said, ‘Hands up.’ And I can’t believe this is happening.”

Raids by Fairfax police on private poker games are not new — a similar game in Great Falls was raided in 2005. But in 2006, a SWAT team was called in to arrest a single suspect accused of betting on football games, and Officer Deval Bullock accidentally shot and killed optometrist Salvatore J. Culosi Jr. After that, the Fairfax police said they would use their tactical teams more judiciously. Still, the Fairfax police have continued to be unapologetic in their aggressive enforcement of gambling laws, as seen by their willingness to bet and lose large amounts of money to take down sports bookies. They will even make the effort to place an informant in a poker game and they are still willing to wield their heavy artillery to take down a roomful of unarmed poker players.

“It’s crazy,” said the regular, looking back on the night of the raid. “They had this ‘shock and awe’ with all of these guys, with their rifles up and wearing ski masks.” He noted that the Justice Department recently revamped its guidelines for civil forfeiture cases, following reports by The Post about abuses of the seizure process by police around the country, including Fairfax. But in Virginia, the seizure law remains the same, and agencies may keep what they seize, after going through a court process.

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Reply Virginia: Fairfax SWAT team raids high stakes Great Falls poker game, seizes cash, terrifies players (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Jan 2015 OP
dixiegrrrrl Jan 2015 #1

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Tue Jan 27, 2015, 11:26 AM

1. Asset forfeiture strikes again.

The cops can drop all charges and still keep every penny they stole from the game.

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