TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a Gloucester County man pleaded guilty today to running an illegal poker club, known as the Runnemede Social Club, out of a storefront in Runnemede, as well as an illicit off-shore gambling website.
Thomas Rand, 43, of Williamstown, pleaded guilty today to an accusation charging him with third-degree promoting gambling before Superior Court Judge John T. Kelley in Camden County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Rand be sentenced to a term of probation conditioned upon him serving 270 days in the county jail. Deputy Attorneys General Pearl Minato and Valerie R. Butler took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Judge Kelley scheduled sentencing for Rand for Oct. 3.
In pleading guilty, Rand admitted that he and a partner, Ryan Dion, 33, of Blackwood, operated the Runnemede Social Club as an illegal gambling club inside a storefront at 707 B East Clements Bridge Road. The partners profited by taking a portion of the money, or “rake,” out of the pot with each hand of poker played.
The club was open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings into the early morning hours, and ran up to three Texas Hold’em, no limit poker games at a time. The partner, Dion, pleaded guilty on July 18 to promoting gambling and faces a recommended sentence of three years of probation with 364 days in the county jail.
Three other men who were dealers and cashiers at the club also pleaded guilty to promoting gambling. August Gibbons, 62, of Stratford, pleaded guilty on June 20 and faces up to 364 days in the county jail. The other two men, Gibbons’ son Nicholas Gibbons, 26, of Stratford, and Gregory Henkel, 41, of Haddonfield, face three years of non-custodial probation.
Rand also admitted that he ran an illegal off-shore gambling website called 365Sportsbetting.com, from which he collected 10 percent of every losing bet.
“These defendants operated an old-school gambling club, complete with cash cage, poker tables and a wide-screen TV for patrons to watch the sports on which they gambled,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We are going to continue to make every effort to remove gambling from the shadows of the black market underworld; in other words, we will not tolerate unregulated illegal gambling in New Jersey.”
“Rand and his co-defendants were charged after an undercover State Police detective infiltrated this so-called social club, playing in illegal poker games and placing bets on Rand’s off-shore gambling website,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We discovered that, behind the facade of a legitimate business, these defendants actually ran a criminal gambling ring.”
“Illegal gambling operations have no place in our communities,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “These types of operations often lead to violence and a multitude of criminal activity. I commend our partners and our detectives for their outstanding work in this investigation.”
The storefront for the Runnemede Social Club had a sign for the health club “Curves,” but inside were three regulation-sized poker tables, a “cash cage” where poker chips were purchased, and sofas arranged around a large, flat-screen TV. From December 2013 through March, an undercover State Police detective was able to gain access to the club as a poker player and observe the operation. The undercover participated in a number of poker games during that period.
The undercover detective observed all of the defendants in the gambling club, including Rand and Dion, who held large rolls of cash and routinely cashed players in and out at the cage. Henkel also worked in the cage, and August and Nicholas Gibbons were dealers, along with a sixth defendant, John Bahn, 28, of Aldan, Pa. Bahn faces a pending charge of third-degree promoting gambling.
After Rand became acquainted with the undercover detective, Rand invited him to set up a $1,500 account to bet on professional and collegiate sports events on his website 365Sportsbetting.com. The undercover detective paid Rand $1,000 in cash, and Rand extended him $500 in credit. Rand provided his bank account number so that the undercover detective could settle up with Rand online by transferring money into the account. The undercover detective placed a number of sports bets on the website and settled up his losses with Rand.
The defendants were charged by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice in March. The charge against Bahn is merely an accusation and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Deputy Attorneys General Pearl Minato and Valerie R. Butler have prosecuted the defendants for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Detective Sgt. David J. Feldstein and Detective Sgt. David Lysek led the investigation for the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section.
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