An illegal betting ring in Rockland with international ties met a swift end Wednesday night when police culminated Operation Big Splash, an investigation that netted more than $130,000 in cash and 32 arrests.
The sting uncovered a Dominican Lottery that was operating out of 18 businesses—many of them mom-and-pop stores—throughout Haverstraw and West Haverstraw; barbershops, delis, grocery stores and other merchants took in thousands of dollars in wages over a four-month period.
The Dominican Lottery is akin to New York's Pick 3 Lottery, officials said, and allows players to win up to $600 with a $1 investment.
Wednesday night's sweep required 100 police officers and nine simultaneous search warrants; authorities met no resistance, but uncovered an illegal handgun, officials said.
There was a previous sweep on March 14.
Authorities seized wads of 20 and 50 dollar bills, marble notebooks with betting numbers scrawled in them, computers and receipts during the sting. Police displayed the evidence on a folding table in Haverstraw Town Hall at a Thursday morning press conference, and sounded off on the operation.
"I take exception to those who might call illegal gambling a victimless crime," said Haverstraw Police Chief Charles Miller. "These illegal activities provide fuel that drives a variety of illicit activities in our town, often leading to an increase in other 'quality of life' crimes."
"We're going to continue to push hard to make the streets of the village a safer place," Miller added.
District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said the investigation began with tips from nearby residents. In 2011, police carried out a similar sting—and this time around, there were some familiar names.
"For many, this was a second arrest," Miller said. "There won't be a third chance."
Some of the accused will face misdemeanour charges, while other defendants face up to 25 years in prison if convicted, authorities said.
Some of the alleged gamblers are in the United States illegally, but Sean Willman, an officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said authorities could not presently comment further on their alien status.
Due to ongoing investigations, police could not comment whether the betting is linked to other criminal activities throughout the area.
The bust is a coup for the Rockland narcotics authorities, but the county's Narcotics and Intel Task Force is facing an uncertain future due to a .
Howard T. Phillips, Havertraw's Town Supervisor, calls the county's lack of funding "irresponsible."
"We must make sure law enforcement funding stays intact," he said, expressing his belief that the Task Force is an utmost priority. "You can't fund dance programs over law enforcement."