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 Thursday.

The indictment was issued by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on Feb. 24 and unsealed Thursday 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 Oaks Card Club at 4097 San Pablo Ave. in Emeryville and Artichoke Joe’s at 659 Huntington Ave. in San Bruno.

Ring members allegedly made loans of $2,000 to $10,000 to casino customers at an interest rate of 10 percent per week and threatened violence if the loans were not repaid.

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

About half the defendants are not employees of the two casinos, according to the indictment, but spent several days per week in the clubs’ Asian gaming sections, which featured games such as pai gow, a Chinese gambling contest played with domino tiles.

But seven defendants worked at the card rooms, and the non-employee loan sharks “relied upon and were assisted by casino employees,” according to the indictment.

Several defendants are also accused of distributing drugs including methamphetamine; MDMA, also known as ecstasy; and cocaine.

The version of the indictment unsealed Thursday gives the names of the 14 defendants who were arrested on Wednesday, but blacks out the name of the 15th individual, who has not been arrested.

Nine defendants are accused of racketeering, or conducting a continuing criminal enterprise that was allegedly centered on making extortionate loans and selling drugs.

Extortionate loans are defined in federal law as those in which the lender and borrower understand that a delay or failure to repay the loan may result in violence or a threat of harm.

The racketeering defendants include Cuong Mach Binh Tieu, who allegedly led the drug trafficking at both casinos, and Skyler Chang and Ding Lin, who allegedly assisted him. They were not employed by either casino.

Ding Lin and another non-employee, Hung Tieu, are also accused of making and collecting extortionate loans at Artichoke Joe’s as part of the racketeering enterprise.

Lap The Chung, who was manager of the Asian gaming section at Oaks Card Club, and Bob Yuen, a non-employee, are accused of making and collecting extortionate loans at the club and selling drugs there and elsewhere.

May Chung, who worked as a chip runner at Oaks Card Club and who is Lap The Chung’s sister, allegedly helped with the loan sharking, and Chea Bou, a card dealer at the club, allegedly aided with both the loans and drug dealing.

The ninth racketeering defendant is the unidentified individual.

Other charges against the racketeering defendants include narcotics conspiracy, drug distribution and making and collecting extortionate loans.

The other six people named in the indictment are accused of aiding in the loan sharking.

Four of them worked at one or another of the clubs, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. They are Thanh The Chu, Kwai Ping Wong, Bao Tran and John Hinyu Chew.

The other two, who were not employees, are Bao Hung Phung and Billy Ket Chau.

U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Jack Gillund said he had no information on the defendants’ ages and hometowns or on when they will appear in court.

If the defendants are convicted, the racketeering charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the narcotics offenses have a maximum penalty of 20 years to life in prison and the other charges have maximum sentences of five years to 40 years.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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