2 arrested in gambling bust that nets cash, drugs

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two men were arrested Wednesday as part of three raids where police say they seized poker tables, drugs, a handgun, cash and three vehicles.

Officers pursued "high-hazard" search warrants about 10 p.m. Wednesday in a commercial building at 155 S. Main, a Cottonwood Heights house at 2910 E. Fort Union Blvd., and a house in Murray at 643 E. 4350 South.

"Found at the various locations were poker tables, a large amount of poker chips, cards, prescription narcotics, marijuana, hashish, drug paraphernalia, a pistol, ammunition, an amount of cash and three vehicles," a police statement reads.

"There were people actively gambling at the time of the service of these warrants," said Salt Lake police detective Lisa Pascadlo. She described the men — Albert Chavez, 35, and Nikalaos Stansworth, 33 — as "hosts" of the gambling activity. Both were arrested for investigation of gambling offenses.

Fourteen others who were there were identified and photographed. "We anticipate screening charges with the district attorney against those people," Pascadlo said. "I do not know the extent of those charges."

A man who said he was at the Main Street poker game when it was raided described the group as "a bunch of friends who get together and try to get some competitive juices going."

He said he has been involved with Utah poker games for eight years, and that players find games by word of mouth and text messages.

"You would have thought the world was coming to an end the way police came in," he said, describing the players as ranging from "business owners to high-powered attorneys."

"Speeding is illegal and people still speed," the man said, acknowledging that gambling is illegal in Utah.

Pascadlo said the evidence police seized suggests the operation was more than a series of friendly card games.

"When you have someone, or in this case two persons, that in this case are arrested for money laundering, that tells me it's more than just a few friends coming together," she said.


Written by Steve Fidel with contributions from Sandra Yi.

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