By BRADEN LAMMERS
NEW ALBANY —
Eight men were indicted Wednesday in United States District Court Southern District of Indiana for allegedly operating an illegal gambling ring out of various Jeffersonville locations.
The arrests were the culmination of an 18-month investigation involving federal, state and local authorities, and it is believed the operation dates back to at least January 2009.
“We started this investigation well over two years ago and we quickly came to the realization that we needed help and the FBI stepped up,” said Larry Rollins, director of the Gaming Control Division for the Indiana Gaming Commission, which began the investigation. “Had it not been for them I don’t think the results would have been like they were.”
United States Attorney Joseph Hogsett said authorities seized more than $126,000 in gambling proceeds, along with pure silver bars, real estate in Jeffersonville and Utica and a number of vehicles during an operation last week.
Seven of the eight men indicted appeared for their initial hearing on charges related to the alleged gambling ring on Wednesday. The one individual who did not appear in court Wednesday was Harold Joyce, who Hogsett said is out of the state.
He added Joyce has agreed to surrender today and will be transported back to Southern Indiana.
All of the defendants — Terry Crofford, Jamie Duley, James Baker, George Blair, Steven Harkins, Jeffery Hash and James Payne — who appeared in court Wednesday pleaded not guilty and were released under supervised restrictions.
The evidence against the men was collected from raids conducted last week at various locations, including TC’s Auto Center Inc. in Jeffersonville as well as a home in Utica.
Agents from the FBI, Indiana State Police and Jeffersonville Police Department were seen at the auto repair shop, located at 1313 E. Market St. on May 22. At the scene, officials were also going through several vehicles on the lot.
According to state and county records, the business is owned by Crofford and it has been operating there since 2002.
Hogsett said authorities recovered “what we believe will be critical evidence relating to these alleged criminal acts” during the raids.
More charges may be added to the count of operating an illegal gambling business, dependent upon information gathered from some of the confiscated materials, Hogsett said.
“Just because these indictments have been unsealed ... does not mean this case is over. In fact, in many respects what this means is the investigation will now proceed in an accelerated way,” Hogsett said. “There is currently a continuing investigation. The specifics of the operation will certainly be revealed as these individuals are prosecuted.”
“Now that we have records, ledgers, access to financial statements that previously were not available to us, perhaps we will be able to put a dollar value on the size and the scope of this operation,” Hogsett said.
When asked if the sports betting operation generated in the millions of dollars, Hogsett said he did not have a total, but it was, at a minimum, in the thousands and thousands of dollars.
Rollins said illegal gaming operations are often linked with other types of criminal activity.
“Illegal gambling ... it leads to other types of crimes,” he said. “Through our experience investigating illegal gambling throughout the state, typically there’s drugs involved if there is illegal gambling, there’s drugs involved, there’s convicted felons that are often involved in it, and so it manifests itself and oftentimes people get hurt.”
“I can say that in my opinion based on the information contained in the indictment, that this illegal gaming operation — this interstate gaming operation — has been effectively dismantled,” Hogsett said.
If convicted the charges carry a penalty of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and fines of up to $250,000.
A trial date has been set for 9 a.m. July 23 in District Court.