Million Dollar Gambling Bust at Eden Center
By GEORGE BROMLEY
Falls Church Times Staff
August 12, 2011
Falls Church City Police, in conjunction with members of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, yesterday confiscated over $1 million in cash and 70 gambling devices valued at $200,000 in a raid at the Eden Center (6751 Wilson Blvd.). Arlington and Fairfax County officers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also participated in the investigation.
Police served felony search warrants at 13 restaurants and made numerous arrests during the raid, dubbed Operation Aces and Eights. One warrant was served in Fairfax County.
Nineteen people were charged with various misdemeanor offenses including gambling, fireworks, and ABC violations. Several felony arrests are pending.
Task Force members announced the results of the raid this morning at a briefing on the City Hall steps. According to Chief Harry Reitze, FCPD first received reports of illegal gambling activity at the Center in 2010. The Task Force was called in late that year to penetrate the operation.
“Yesterday’s arrests and property seizures will help stem the flow of money that often funds other illegal activity in the region,” said Reitze. The investigation of criminal gang activity in the region is continuing, he said, and more arrests are pending.
Task Force commander, Lt. Dan Hess of Prince William County, described the gambling devices, which were in plain sight, as resembling entertainment machines, but with a slot off to the side. Hess said that the activity was controlled by a primarily Vietnamese-American gang known as the Dragon family and that its actions had “paralyzed the Eden Center community.” He stated that a number of business owners and patrons thanked the police officers who were conducting the raid.
Chief Reitze said that the Eden Center has long had “a checkered reputation.” Over the years it has been the site of both petty and serious crimes, such as assaults, robberies, extortion, narcotics sales, and homicides, mostly gang-related.
Officials observed that gangs have “long tentacles” and that they are capable of quickly shifting their operations from one jurisdiction to another, thus a regional approach to the problem is essential. Chief Reitze acknowledged that City police could not have conducted the operation on their own.
Joe Price, Chairman of the Gang Task Force and Chief of the Leesburg Police Department, said Thursday’s raid was another significant milestone in the Task Force’s efforts to combat gang crime and to reduce the influence of gangs in the Northern Virginia region. He said the Task Force has focused not only on enforcement but also prevention and intervention.
Teen-agers are especially vulnerable to gangs, as both victims and recruits. Therefore, the Task Force works with local organizations in efforts to mentor those at risk. In Falls Church City, mentoring sessions for middle school students are held Thursday afternoons after school at the Community Center.
Businesses Raided - Search warrants for illegal gambling were served Thursday at the following Eden Center establishments:
Café Nha Trang
Café Le Mirage
Café Quan 7 Lo
Café Bay 11
Café De Paris
Café Hoanh Qanh
Café Hai Lua
Café Vv – 6779
The Regional Gang Task Force - The Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force was initially funded with a 2003 Department of Justice Appropriations Bill. It is a multi-jurisdictional partnership comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to address gang activity in Northern Virginia. The Board of Directors of the Gang Task Force are Chief Law Enforcement Officers of the following jurisdictions.
City of Alexandria
Town of Dumfries
City of Fairfax
City of Falls Church
Town of Herndon
Town of Leesburg
Prince William County
Town of Vienna
Virginia State Police
Town of Warrenton
Aces and Eights – According to American legend, the Dead Man’s Hand was the pair Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot in the back in a saloon at Deadwood, SD in 1876.
By George Bromley
August 12, 2011