Five Defendants Face Over 30 Charges Following Raids on Flint Storefront Casinos

Jessica Aletor
By:
Jessica Aletor
03/10/2023/
Legal
Michigan Casino News

Highlights

  • In April 2023, the MGCB and Michigan Department of Attorney General seized about 100 gambling devices and $29,204 in gambling profits.
  • Between August and September, Michigan authorities arraigned five individuals in connection to this raid on 31 charge counts.
  • The MGCB also revealed that it destroyed gaming machines as part of its efforts to combat illegal gambling in the state.

Without any doubts, Michigan has achieved very remarkable progress in clamping down on illegal gambling in the past two years. In 2023 alone, the state’s authorities were successful in securing multiple convictions against offenders. Similarly, there had been several investigations and raids on illegal gambling outlets, particularly in the Flint area of the state.

The latest in a long line of arrests and prosecution came in September when state authorities arraigned five suspects before a district court in Flint. Charged with over 30 counts related to illegal gambling, these defendants were arrested in connection with a seizure that took place in April this year.

Joint Investigation Leads to Arraignment of Individuals Before District Court

A joint investigation by the Michigan Gaming Control Board and the Michigan Department of Attorney General earlier this year has continued to yield results. The investigation led to a raid conducted on April 27, 2023, with authorities storming two illegal storefront casinos close to the Flint area of the state.

Both outlets were located at The State Road Spot, 723 South State Road in Davison and The Bristol Spot, 1374 East Bristol Road in Burton, respectively. According to the MGCB, the raid resulted in the confiscation of 100 gambling devices, 62 gift cards in different denominations and cash worth $29,204 suspected to be gambling profits.

After months of further investigation, state authorities have now charged five persons to court in connection with the raid. Charges were filed against all the defendants in August and September, after which they were arraigned before the 67th District Court located at 630 South Saginaw Street in Flint.

“Accountability is crucial when it comes to upholding justice and ensuring a fair and honest gaming environment in the state of Michigan,” MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams said.

“While the Michigan Gaming Control Board will continue to hold those who choose to circumvent the law accountable for their actions, we also acknowledge the importance of fairness, equality, and the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. We operate with integrity and our investigators remain committed to the foundations of due process that protects the rights of all individuals involved.”

The five defendants had their probable cause hearings on September 28, with more information about their prosecution expected to emerge in coming weeks.

Five Individuals Face Imprisonment Up to 10 Years or $100,000 Fine

Despite their arraignment, according to federal law, all five defendants are merely suspects or accused persons. They will be presumed innocent until proven guilty before a court of law. Nevertheless, they may each face up to 10 years in prison or a $100,000 fine, if found guilty.

Two of the defendants, Joseph Toporek and Mary Larkin each face five charges, including three felony counts for conducting a gambling operation without license and using a computer to commit a crime. They also face one high court misdemeanor for maintaining a gambling house for gain and another misdemeanor count for keeping a gambling house.

All other three defendants, Shaun Bellah Sr., Shaun Bellah II and Ghazwan Brizkho face seven charges each. Included in their charge are five felony counts for conducting a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to conduct a criminal enterprise, using a computer to commit a crime and conducting a gambling operation without license. These three also face similar misdemeanor counts as Toporek and Larkin.

Toporek, Brikho and Larkin were all arraigned in August while Bellah II and Bellah Sr. were charged on September 5 and 12, respectively.

MGCB Reveals End Game of Confiscated Gambling Machines

With hundreds of illegal gaming machines confiscated annually, the spotlight recently turned on what happens to these devices after their seizure. According to the MGCB, all unlicensed gaming equipment are destroyed using heavy machinery. In a press release by the MGCB published September 26, 2023, the Board put out a photo of the City Recycling Inc. junkyard in Detroit where recently seized machines were crushed.

“The destruction of these machines sends a clear message that the Michigan Gaming Control Board is not playing games when it comes to upholding the highest standards of gaming regulation and enforcement,” said MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams. “The MGCB will continue to ensure that unauthorized machines are not left to chance to be repurposed and used again by those who choose to break the law.”

The Board further noted that the destruction was necessary to prevent parts of or whole machines from being sold or reused. Michigan gambling is hurt when unlicensed casinos continue to operate.

The machines destroyed by the MGCB are the tools of criminals, cheating their neighbors of their hard-earned money as well as the state out of gaming revenues that support our schools. Illegal gaming operations are a danger to their communities, typically becoming local hotspots for other crimes and violence,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said, warning against illegal gambling.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, casino.zone and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments