Underground poker concerns grow after raid on upscale clubs

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Appearing in two different groups, seven of the nine charged with an elaborate money laundering scheme tied to two poker rooms appeared before a judge on Thursday.

It comes a day after Prime Social Poker Room and the Post Oak Poker Club were raided.

"Individuals operating these clubs within a short period of time are depositing millions of dollars in cash, profiting from this illegal activity," said Celena Vinson, with the Harris County Attorney's Office.

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Court records say Prime Social used at least four bank accounts for their operation, and bank records show the club deposited in "excess of six million dollars." Records also say Post Oak Poker Club deposited more than "four million dollars."

Houston police say over the past four months, they had three calls for service related to the address registered to Prime Social. While it's unclear if reports were filed, Vinson says the poker rooms are known to draw other crime.

"It perpetuates a lot of other violence, a lot of other crime that affects the community and the individuals themselves are operating outside the law and shouldn't be allowed to," Vinson said.

The county attorney wants to shutdown both of the poker places. If that happens, there is always a concern the players could go underground.

"Unfortunately, that has occurred. When we passed the gaming regulations with eight-liners, that was the concern," Vinson said. "We did find out that many folks did it underground and we went and law enforcement was able to find them as well."

One of the nine charged is Sergio Diaz Cabrera.

His son told us Diaz was loaning money to someone at the poker club and had no idea anything was illegal.

He sent a statement saying, "(My) dad is an honest hard working person; (he) had no knowledge of these places being illegal, as they are visible everywhere in the city and had permits. Otherwise he would have never helped the club when friends asked.. "

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