Drugs, cash, gambling machines seized from clandestine storefront site
Earlier this month, Mission Local wrote about the “Jhec of All Trades,” a little-visited variety-store-turned-coffee-shop-that-didn’t-sell-any-coffee-turned-alleged-illegal-gambling-den — one of numerous gambling dens operating in plain sight in the Excelsior, Mission, Bayview and Chinatown.
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, the purported gambling den came up snake eyes. In a daylong operation, San Francisco police officers executed a raid — the second one here since November of last year. An undercover officer or officers within allegedly spent a good deal of time documenting that the spinning fruits on the computer screens weren’t a mere video game, but a gambling operation, complete with payouts. They also videotaped the proceedings. Then, at his signal, a platoon of officers stormed the place.
A raid initiated in late morning stretched throughout the day. At 4 p.m., a line of handcuffed men were still seated outside 4182 and 4182B Mission Street as cops scurried about. At 6 p.m., police were still poking through the establishment. By around 8 p.m., after the police had apparently left the scene, men outfitted in shorts and baseball caps were sifting through the detritus scattered about in the hallway and amid the knocked-over chairs within, and stuffing odds and ends into garbage bags.
A handwritten sign on the exterior was a masterpiece of brevity: “Sorry we’re closed. Raided by SFPD.”
Captain Joseph McFadden, the longtime head of Ingleside station, said that, this time, he hopes to put the nail in the coffin of the alleged gambling den. He denied that the timing of the raid was due to Mission Local’s article or his pending Saturday transfer from Ingleside to the gun crimes unit. Rather, he said, “It’s a combination of everything, and it’s been on our radar a long time. After the DA dropped the ball on it, we were still receiving complaints.”
McFadden is, evidently, none too pleased that the DA dismissed all charges pending further investigation following a Nov. 29 raid. That sweep led to nine men and women being cited or arrested, and thousands of dollars in cash being seized, along with gambling machines and material the police claim is methamphetamine.
“Last year’s investigation did not yield sufficient evidence to prove charges that we felt would have an effect on the behavior or provide sufficient relief for the community,” countered DA spokesman Max Szabo. “Nonetheless,” he added, “the statute of limitations on those charges has not lapsed. A charging decision related to Tuesday’s arrests is due Thursday.”
Not only have the charges stemming from November not yet lapsed, now several of the same people may be facing additional charges. This was not an accident. McFadden says his officers were keeping tabs on the suspected “manager and owner and operators,” and waited for the right time to trigger the raid. “We knew the suspects we wanted to get,” he says. “We wanted to catch them in the act. We got everyone we wanted. ”
Five arrests were made during Tuesday’s raid. In addition to gambling equipment, money and drugs, police made off with financial papers, schedules, money orders, a money counter, a money dispenser and property receipts. Earlier this week, police arrested two men they believe to be connected to the Jhec of All Trades in a motorhome that’s often parked nearby, seizing “a large quantity” of suspected meth.
Gambling dens have, for years, been an eyesore in San Francisco’s outer neighborhoods — especially the Excelsior , where vacant storefronts are common and absentee landlords are happy to pocket rent money and look the other way. Along with potential criminal charges filed by the District Attorney against the accused casino’s operators and managers, McFadden hopes the City Attorney will move forward with a civil case against the building owner.
For a month or more prior to this raid, SFPD, District Attorney and City Attorney personnel have met to coordinate their actions. McFadden is optimistic charges will stick this time; after two raids, the case can better be made that this is a “continuing offense” rather than “just a bunch of misdemeanors and infractions.”
It’s not the gambling in the casinos that gets them on the city’s radar, but the ancillary elements that attach themselves to gambling: drugs, booze, prostitution, fighting, noise and property crime. Proving a property is a “magnet for crime” is a key element of any nuisance case brought by the city. And that, too, becomes easier with a history of police raids on the premises uncovering illegal substances and activities.
McFadden says he has, for months, been receiving complaints from the neighbors and neighborhood organizations housed near the Jhec of All Trades. Always he’s told them he was aware of the situation and to be patient. Now he says this is what he was building up to, and that we should expect “activity” on a few other places in the coming weeks.
“There’s a cop’s mother who lives right near there; she’s one of the complainants,” he says of the Jhec. “I told her I’ll have that place shut down if it’s the last thing I do.” And, reflecting on his transfer this weekend out of the neighborhood, he adds, “it might just be the last thing I do.”
Capt. Joseph McFadden will speak at a community meeting regarding Tuesday’s raid at the Excelsior branch library at 7 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 18.