California Pastor Hit with Gambling, Weapons Charges Claims He Thought Illegal Betting Den Was Amusement Arcade

Posted on: September 26, 2019, 12:23h. 

Last updated on: September 26, 2019, 02:00h.

A pastor from Stockton, California is due in court Thursday, facing accusations of running an illegal gambling operation and weapons charges.

Stockton pastor
Pastor Thai “John” Nguyen owns an indoor water park with disgraced former Stockton mayor Anthony Silva. (Image: FOX40)

Pastor Thai “John” Nguyen, 52, told Fox40 from jail that he believed he had been running a thrift shop, which had what he thought was a video games arcade attached to it.

“Yeah, because it’s an arcade,” he insisted. “You put the money there, you’re playing, you’re shooting airplane … and nothing is really, like, violent.

“What I do is from my heart and to bring this to the community,” he explained. “You see a lot of homeless are coming, and I’m trying to help the homeless.”

Nguyen is not the only pastor who has been forced to deny knowledge of gambling machines found on their watch in the past 12 months.

Weapons Hoard

Nguyen said he had been managing the premises on North Eldorado Boulevard for about two months until Tuesday, when police raided the building and arrested him.

According to the police report, officers found evidence of illegal gambling, as well as a loaded AR-15 rifle, two semiautomatic handguns, one revolver, body armor, and $3,600 in cash. One of the guns had been reported stolen,

Stockton Police Officer Joe Silva (no relation to the mayor) said Vice Unit detectives had been “looking at this establishment for approximately the last two months,” which is precisely the time Nguyen says he began operating his thrift shop.

Silva said the evidence of illegal gambling included 30 computers and three gaming tables.

Everything they found is somewhere that I don’t even go,” he told Fox, before apologizing to his flock. “I’m sorry for what I did, I didn’t know it was wrong,” he said.

Strip Poker Mayor

Along with managing a thrift shop packed with gaming tables and weapons, Nguyen’s other line — besides administering to the aforementioned flock — is operating a family-oriented inflatable water park, Indoor Adventures, which he co-owns with Anthony Silva, Stockton’s disgraced Republican former mayor.

Silva was featured here in 2016 after he was arrested for plying teenage boys with alcohol at his so-called “Mayor’s Youth Camp,” before filming them playing strip poker.

In March 2017, Silva was arrested at San Francisco International Airport and charged with grand theft, embezzlement, profiteering, misappropriation of public funds, and money laundering. Some of the money he is alleged to have embezzled from the city was siphoned towards his youth camp.

In May of this year, he pleaded no contest to a single conflict of interest charge that saw all others dropped. He faces a maximum six months in prison.

Other highlights of Silva’s term of office include an idea to import endangered manatees to the Stockton Delta to help control the hyacinth problem, and handing the key of the city to “God.”

In 2015, a 13-year-old boy, Rayshawn Harris, was killed with a gun that was later found to have been registered to Silva. The mayor said that the gun had been stolen from his house and he had failed to report the theft.