gavel.jpgFifteen people have been indicted on charges of racketeering, loan-sharking and drug dealing in an operation allegedly based at two Bay Area casinos, federal prosecutors announced today.

The indictment was issued by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on Feb. 24 and unsealed today following the arrests of 14 of the defendants by federal, state and local agents at numerous Bay Area locations on Wednesday.

The crime ring was allegedly based at the Oaks Card Club at 4097 San Pablo Ave. in Emeryville and Artichoke Joe’s at 659 Huntington Ave. in San Bruno.

The indictment alleges that the loan-sharking, known under federal law as extortionate extension of credit, charged borrowers interest of up to 10 percent per week.

Most of the defendants are not employees of the two casinos, but allegedly spent several days per week in the Asian gaming sections of the clubs and loaned customers money at extortionate interest, according to the indictment.

“The loan sharks used threats and their reputation for violence to ensure repayment of the loans,” the indictment alleges.

Nine of the defendants are charged with racketeering, or running a continuing criminal enterprise, that included loan-sharking and drug dealing.

Other charges in the 60-page indictment include narcotics conspiracy, possession and distribution of methamphetamine and ecstasy, extending extortionate credit and collection of credit by extortionate means.

Fourteen of the defendants are identified by name in the indictment unsealed today. The name of the 15th defendant is blacked out because that individual has not yet been arrested.

While most of the defendants are not employees of the casinos, the indictment alleges that the loan sharks “relied upon and were directly assisted by casino employees.”

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said four defendants who are accused of extending extortionate credit worked for one or the other of the two casinos.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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