Florida Cops Raid Four Illegal Bolita Gambling Operations

Posted on: May 20, 2024, 05:06h. 

Last updated on: May 21, 2024, 10:01h.

Five suspects were arrested earlier this month after Florida officers searched four illicit gaming operations in Port St. Lucie.

A Port St. Lucie, Fla. police vehicle
A Port St. Lucie, Fla. police vehicle, pictured above. Officers raided illegal gambling operations. (Image: Flickr)

Each legitimate business ran illegal bolita games, police said. Bolita in Spanish is defined as “little ball.”

The games are a form of lottery that have been historically popular in Florida and Cuba. In these operations, the winning numbers followed New York State Lottery numbers, but the game wasn’t connected to the government-run lottery, local police said.

The charged suspects were identified as Bryant Francisco, Chimy Ismero, Josiane LaPointe, Big John Petion, and Revelyn Tejeda-Serrata, according to Florida TV station WPEC.

Each was booked on May 10 at the St. Lucie County jail by the Port St. Lucie Police Department (PSLPD) for lottery violations. Each suspect posted bond and was released from custody. Their cases were turned over to local prosecutors.

The court-approved raids followed a two-month inquiry into illegal gambling in the city.

Undercover Officer

To investigate the allegations, local police used an undercover detective from the West Palm Beach, Fla. Police Department. He was unknown to the suspects and went into each of the four sites, where he gambled.

People would pick numbers, they would number these balls, put them in a plastic bag and just pull them out, like you’d see normally done with the lotto machine on TV, so it’s kind of a game of chance,” PSLPD Chief Richard Del Toro later explained to WPEC.

Evidence was reviewed by a Florida judge who approved search warrants.

Local police officers, a SWAT team, the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, and other officials then raided each of the businesses identified as Cale Marketplace, Malaika Caribbean Restaurant, Frienz Mini Mart, and Balla Unisex Salon

Citations Given

The four raided businesses were cited for illegal gambling, unpermitted use of property, and business tax receipt violations, according to the news report. If convicted, the businesses could face fines of up to $15K each.

As of this month, it appeared each of the four operations weren’t connected, police said. In total, officers seized approximately $10K in cash during the raids.

Del Toro said the investigation is continuing elsewhere in the city.

It definitely makes me think that there are more,” the chief said in a statement quoted by WPEC. “I mean, just the odds of the fact that there’s four separate businesses operating the same type of illegal gambling makes me believe this is probably a problem throughout the city that we’re going to have to look into.”

“These are legitimate businesses that are doing this, but they’re operating this illegal scam,” Del Toro further told Treasure Coast Newspapers. “It’s unregulated, it’s illegal. The payout amount is not guaranteed, and sometimes is being withheld by the store owners.”