DA drops charges against Houston poker club owners
Prosecutors have backed off, but want the FBI to look into the operations
This past May, law enforcement in Houston, TX went after two poker clubs that were deemed to be “public nuisances.” The raids of the Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social Poker club, and the subsequent arrests of nine individuals, came as a shock, since the clubs had been legally operating in the open for some time. It was also disconcerting that police didn’t bother to look into any of the other clubs operating under the same business model in the area, choosing instead to target just these two. Now, prosecutors have dropped their cases against the nine that were arrested, but are asking the FBI to review the evidence.
The Harris County District Attorney’s (DA) Office had asserted that the clubs were involved in money laundering and seized over $200,000 in the process. However, citing a reported “conflict of interest,” it dropped the charges and has filed to have the money returned. In a statement, DA Kim Ogg said, We are dedicated to transparency and fairness and we have turned over the organized crime and money laundering investigation of these poker clubs to federal investigators. We discovered this and we want to ensure that an outside agency independently reviews everything.”
Ogg wouldn’t detail the conflict of interest other than to state that one defense witness is a former contract employee and a political fundraiser. However, the DA indicated that there were other potential conflicts of interest, as well.
Adding to the drama surrounding the illegal raids and subsequent arrests is a revelation made by representatives of Prime Social. They have come forward and asserted that they paid $250,000 to a consultant for Ogg and two other men who promised to ensure that a city ordinance would be implemented to protect the businesses. The representatives assert that they learned later that it was a scam.
That was only a couple of weeks prior to the raids. However, Prime Social doesn’t believe Ogg was involved in the scam. An attorney for the company, Joseph Magliolo, said in a statement, “We believe we were the victims of a fraud, much as I believe the DA’s office was also a victim.”