Sunday | February 14, 2016
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FBI raids local gambling operation

Big Island police and federal agents on Wednesday arrested eight people in connection with an alleged illegal gambling and sports betting operation in Kailua-Kona.

FBI and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation agents and the Hawaii Police Department’s Special Response Team took part in the joint raid at the Anini Street home located off Hina Lani Street, said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, who is based in Honolulu. He said the Hawaii Police Department began the case, and the FBI got involved later, however, HPD referred all inquiries to the FBI.

Seven people were arrested at the home on warrants for allegedly operating an illegal gambling business out of Aloha Springs Water LLC in the Kaloko Light Industrial Area of Kailua-Kona. An eighth person, who resides in Arizona, was also arrested in connection with the “criminal conspiracy,” he said.

The arrests took place without incident, and no injuries were reported. Those in custody are being taken to Honolulu where they will make initial court appearances this morning, Simon said.

Among those arrested are Eric Ford, Marlo Banasan, Matthew Phillips, Robert Bland, Jonah Yardley and Trevor Carter, according to the FBI. In addition, Barbara Ford was served with a penal summons to appear in federal court.

It is unknown which defendant resides in Arizona, however, Eric Ford owns the Anini Street home where the raid occurred Wednesday and is also listed as a member/manager of Aloha Springs Water, according to Hawaii County property tax records and the Hawaii Business Registration Division. The FBI said all the gambling operations were conducted out of the company’s facility on Olowalu Street.

More than two dozen federal and county officers, as well as the county’s Bearcat armored vehicle and two mobile command centers, were at the Anini Street home until shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Simon said the number of officers on site was high out of precaution because seven people were being arrested, not because of a known threat of violence.

“We weren’t expecting a fight, but when you are arresting seven adults, you need enough presence for each adult,” he said, adding that in a single planned arrest five to six officers would be involved. “We need to have an appropriate response.”

The eight arrested were indicted Nov. 20 by a U.S. District Court grand jury. The indictment alleges each of the defendants, except Barbara Ford, between November 2009 and 2012 conspired to “conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct and own an illegal gambling business … involving sports betting, craps games and poker games” that included at least five people and lasted longer than 30 days with daily revenue exceeding $2,000.

It further alleges that Eric Ford entered into arrangements with six of the defendants to assist in taking bets, collecting gambling debts and paying winnings.

The defendants used an offshore gaming website to facilitate the sports betting operation.

Also contained in the indictment is instances of gambling, payouts and debt collections, as well as an August 2011 allegation that $3 million was counted under the direction of Eric Ford.

It also notes that at Eric Ford’s direction, Banasan hosted a craps game at his Waimea residence.

In addition to the above charges, Eric and Barbara Ford each face 25 counts of evading reporting requirements following transactions with domestic financial institutions, according to the indictment.

The charges stem from money orders purchased at Kailua-Kona locations. Money orders purchased between May 2009 and June 2012 totaled $151,383.54.

In a prepared statement released later Wednesday, Simon thanked the Hawaii Police Department’s investigative efforts that led to the involvement of the FBI in the gambling raid.

He also noted the agencies will continue to investigate such crimes.

“The Hawaii Police, the IRS and the FBI remain committed to dismantling organized crime on the Big Island for the greater good of the local citizens,” he said in the statement.