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Artichoke Joe's set to reopen

 | Published on 3/10/2011


Artichoke Joe’s, one of two Bay Area casinos raided by federal authorities last week, is set to reopen tonight and the gaming director for the Oaks Card Club in Emeryville has been charged with allegedly moving millions of dollars through his personal accounts. 

The Oaks Card Club and Artichoke Joe’s in San Bruno were raided March 2 as part of a large-scale investigation into organized crime in which 14 people were arrested. 

Federal authorities say Hoa The Nguyen, 47, of Alameda, made nearly 400 deposits totaling nearly $3 million into his accounts between 2006 and 2010. Artichoke Joe’s is set to reopen its doors 6:30 p.m. Thursday after being closed nearly a week, an employee said yesterday.

Last Wednesday, federal officials swarmed Artichoke Joe’s, frisked its patrons and closed the card club’s doors to customers as investigators executed search and arrest warrants as part of a Bay Area-wide investigation into organized crime.

Federal prosecutors say Nguyen and the 13 others all worked for or frequented the two card clubs.

The suspects are charged with racketeering, loan sharking and drug sales, among other charges and acted independently from casino ownership. Many of the defendants offered casino chips as loans, according to an indictment. Only four of the 14 sought in the investigation actually worked for either casino, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag wrote in the indictment.

Arrested were Cuong Mach Binh Tieu, Lap The Chung, Bob Yuen, Ding Lin, Skyler Chang, Chea Bou, May Chung, Hung Tieu, Thanh The Chu, Kwai Ping Wong, John Hinyu Chew, Bao Tran, Bao Hung Phung and Billy Ket Chau, according to the indictment.

The defendants referred to themselves as “one family” and the enterprise worked collectively out of the Asian gaming sections of the two casinos. Most members of the enterprise primarily worked at and through one casino or the other, according to the indictment.

Some of the conspirators’ victims were given $5,000 and $10,000 loans at 10 percent interest per week and were threatened with physical violence if the payments were late, according to the indictment.

Some of the defendants are also being charged with distributing cocaine and ecstasy. They are all being charged with the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO crimes.

The indictment is the result of an approximately two-year investigation led by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration who worked together with the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control and the Internal Revenue Service.

Nguyen, who is charged with structuring monetary transactions to avoid detection, did not enter a plea during an appearance in federal court Wednesday.

Prosecutors say he’s due back in court on March 31.

A call seeking comment from Nguyen’s attorney was not immediately returned. The owner of Artichoke Joe’s, Dennis Sammut, could not be reached for comment yesterday.