Busted Bakersfield Casino Also Had Stolen Firearms, 3,000 Rounds of Ammunition

Posted on: July 1, 2019, 05:08h. 

Last updated on: July 1, 2019, 05:08h.

Sheriffs deputies in Kern County, California raided an unlicensed casino in South Bakersfield Saturday and found much more than just illegal gaming machines.

The fish table game that is found in many illegal gambling locations, including several in Bakersfield, California. (Image: Charlotte Observer)

In addition to unearthing an eight-person fish table gaming console and six computer terminals used for unauthorized wagering, police found four firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition. Two of the guns were previously reported stolen.

The execution of the search warrant was the culmination of a week-long investigation by Metro Patrol deputies into the gambling activities at the location,” according to the Kern County Sheriffs Office. “Deputies located an eight-person ‘Fish Table’ gaming console and six computer terminals in the building.”

The stolen guns found on the premises along the 9700 block of Aim Avenue were a Glock Model 23 .40 caliber and a Beretta .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

Four arrests were made, including 36-year-old James Helm “for operating an illegal gambling operation, and conspiracy to commit a crime,” according to Kern County Sheriffs.

Thirty-seven-year-old Jeffrey Helm “was arrested for operating an illegal gambling casino, receiving stolen property, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, convicted felon in possession of ammunition, and conspiracy to commit a crime,” according to authorities.

He remains in custody on $145,000 bond and faces six felony counts. Two women, 46-year-old Maryanne Yeakley, and 28-year-old Angelica Crotwell, were arrested at the illegal gambling venue on outstanding misdemeanor warrants.

It’s Happened Before

In April, Kern County sheriffs broke up another unlicensed gambling ring in Bakersfield, finding another eight-person fish table game, more than $5,200 in cash and nearly 255 grams of methamphetamines.

The following month, deputies there were called to a local tavern after 911 dispatch reported a man on the premises was brandishing a gun. Upon arrival, police discovered another illicit gaming operation, including a fish table and some cash.

The closest legitimate gaming property to these goings on is the Golden West Casino in Bakersfield, which features table games and poker, but no slot machines.

While California borders Nevada, the gambling mecca of the US, the Golden State is home to dozens of tribal casinos. The state’s tribal gaming properties account for about a quarter of gross gaming receipts (GGR) at all US Native American casinos.

California has more than 70 tribal gaming venues. In the first quarter, the state’s Indian gaming revenue sharing trust fund (RSTF) distributed $19.8 million, or $275,000 apiece, to over 70 California tribes, according to the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC).

Strict California Laws

Punishments for illegal gambling vary from state to state and in California those penalties get progressively stiffer the more times an offender is prosecuted on related charges.

California penal code 330a outlines some of the standards for prosecuting proprietors of illegal gambling operations where physical structures are involved, such as the one in Bakersfield.

“Every person, who has in his or her possession or under his or her control, either as owner, lessee, agent, employee, mortgagee, or otherwise, or who permits to be placed, maintained, or kept in any room, space, inclosure, or building owned, leased, or occupied by him or her, or under his or her management or control, any slot or card machine, contrivance, appliance or mechanical device, upon the result of action of which money or other valuable thing is staked or hazarded, and which is operated, or played, by placing or depositing therein any coins, checks, slugs, balls, or other articles or device, or in any other manner and by means whereof, or as a result of the operation of which any merchandise, money, representative or articles of value, checks, or tokens, redeemable in or exchangeable for money or any other thing of value, is won or lost, or taken from or obtained from the machine, when the result of action or operation of the machine,” would be guilty of a misdemeanor according to California law.

A first time offender could face fines of $500 to $1,000 and nominal jail time, but a third offense could result in fines of $10,000 to $25,000 and up to a year in prison.

California, home to some of the strictest gun laws in the US, treats possession of a stolen firearm as a felony.