HOUSTON – The Houston Police Department's Vice Division said an undercover investigation that started 10 months ago finally came together last Thursday, as investigators simultaneously raided 15 different locations, arrested 5 people and seized more than a million dollars in cash.
It was 4:30 a.m. when dozens of law enforcement officers gathered in three different counties hoping to safely take down an organized crime ring.
A man accused of running illegal gambling halls all over town was arrested at his home on Maple Leaf in Stafford, police said.
Investigators said Terry Wayne Donalson, his wife Nancy Donalson, and her father-in-law Alton Donalson own and operate three game rooms that police said have been connected to three murders, at least one kidnapping, and several armed robberies.
In the 8300 Block of the Gulf Freeway undercover vice officers detained the armed security guard who worked there.
They seized dozens of machines and thousands of dollars in cash. In all, 267 gambling machines were hauled off to HPD's property room.
Investigators said the Donalson's game rooms have been shut down before, but they just open up again weeks later, and the illegal gambling, the armed robberies, and the shootings return.
“We're not just arresting a low level clerk for a misdemeanor crime ... we are going to the top this time,” one officer said.
During the undercover investigation, HPD said it discovered the Donalson's money laundering operation.
Detectives said much of the illegal enterprise was orchestrated from a small east Houston warehouse.
Inside, HPD found $37,000 in a tool box. There was a large cash counting machine, and an office where the suspects allegedly kept records.
The building was lined with surveillance cameras and burglar bars. A cross marked the spot where a man was shot and killed last year. HPD said the deceased was a man who knew about the illegal money inside, and planned to take it at gunpoint.
Terry Wayne Donalson and his wife were taken into custody and driven downtown. Officers searched their home looking for money allegedly made in the illegal gambling operation and found $1.6 million stashed all around their home, HPD said.
Some of it was stashed in safes.
Detectives said the suspects couldn't deposit the money into a bank because it would have raised too many red flags.
The money was confiscated and so was 23 guns found inside the home. HPD also seized two boats, expensive cars, and 10-acres of land in Brazoria County.
“That was unfortunate to see them taken away like that,” said Greg Jerkins, the Donalson's neighbor. “(A) little weird. They've been good neighbors to us for several years. We've had many conversations out here on the sidewalk. His kids and my kids have played, so as far as we knew, they were good people.”
Jerkins did recall a shooting that took place at the Donalson’s home in 2006.
Jerkins said he thought it was just a random robbery, and so did police at first. But now it appears there's a good reason crooks targeted the Donalson's and the people that allegedly worked for them.
The five people were arrested and each were held on a $1 million bond.
Checking police records we found dozens of shootings, armed robberies and murders inside Houston games rooms in the last two years. Some of the people hurt, even killed, were innocent patrons.
Houston vice wants you to know these businesses are not regulated by some type of gambling commission, so in other words, they can take your money and run.