HOUSTON - A bingo hall near Hobby Airport looked more like a “doomsday shelter” when police raided it earlier this week.
They told reporters Friday they found 100 guns.
"Enough, what I would consider, to start a small war,” said Lt. Ruben Diaz with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. "This is one of largest seizures of guns I've seen in one particular spot.”
Investigators also confiscated $87,000 in cash.
They found the big stash of cash, guns, ammunition and body armor hidden in an underground bunker below the Paradise Day & Night Bingo Hall.
"Like a whole table this length filled with ammo boxes that were full of all caliber, including 50 caliber,” said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. “I mean, when do you see that?"
Owners Robert Jones and Fred Kennedy, along with 10 others, were arrested after a year-long undercover operation. They're charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
Anderson said bingo wasn’t the problem. It’s what was happening in the back rooms.
"These are businesses that have 8-liner machines in them. They're like slot machines,” Anderson said. “And people bring money to play the games hoping to win cash prizes. That's what makes them illegal."
Prosecutors also claim the owners were using family-owned ATMs to launder some of the $15 million in illegal earnings over the last four years.
But the suspects’ attorney denies those claims.
"It's ridiculous is what it is. It's a legitimate bingo hall,” said Stephen St. Mark, defense attorney. “They're running a state-licensed bingo operation."
Steven Morris said he’d played bingo at Paradise before and never noticed anything illegal.
"It blew my mind when I heard about it,” Morris said.
Investigators say there are more than 200 underground game rooms across Harris County and they’re a magnet for hardcore criminals.
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