(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
Following a four-month investigation, Shelbyville police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, along with an area FBI agent, executed a search warrant on the building where high-dollar poker games allegedly took place once a week.
"People were bragging that this was like 'little Tunica,'" said Det. Brian Crews of the Shelbyville Police Department.
The two accused promoters, 38-year-old James Chad Tucker and his wife Christina Tucker, 37, of Meadowlark Drive, were each charged with one count of aggravated gambling promotion -- a class E felony -- and one count of possession of gambling devices, according to jail records.
The couple were booked into Bedford County Jail and released on $6,000 bond. Four dealers and a security guard were also arrested and charged with aggravated gambling promotion.
A total of 26 players were also each cited for misdemeanor gambling and released. All are scheduled to appear in Bedford County General Sessions Court on Sept. 23.
Authorities seized $48,000 in cash, gambling paraphernalia, a small amount of marijuana and firearms, according to a TBI press release.
Crews said he headed up the investigation, which began after he received information about the alleged gambling operation.
"We've conducted surveillance on the building on several nights and we've also had undercover agents in the building," Crews said.
Crews said the Tuckers had a doorman, Victor Gill, providing security for the gaming house and video cameras covering the outside of the building. Two-way radios were allegedly used so that the operators could know when a player would enter the structure.
Once inside, authorities found four commercial poker tables, each with room for 10 players plus the dealer.
"It was high stakes poker games where they were playing Texas hold 'em," Crews said, with one table having a "buy in" of $1,000, another at $500 and two tables with a $200 "buy-in."
"It was no limit, from what we understand," Crews said of the games.
Players would allegedly purchase poker chips from a cash office set up in one corner of the building run by one of the promoters, Crews said. A player could buy extra chips from the table, but most cash transactions allegedly took place in the office, he said.
"Compared to our surveillance, this was a slow night," Crews said, adding that as many as 50 people would sometimes be in attendance at the gaming house, most of whom were from out of town.
Surveillance had been ongoing for several weeks by Crews, Detective Charles Merlo and an unidentified TBI agent.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
Players were also treated to a full buffet, free alcohol and cigarettes, Crews said. Two air purifiers to keep the building smoke free were also taken.
So much evidence was taken from the building that it took a large U-Haul truck to carry it away, Crews said.
The TBI were called in because of the size of the operation, Crews said. The raid was conducted by over 25 officers from the TBI, the Drug Task Force and the THP. Crews noted that the Shelbyville police department "simply doesn't have the manpower here to pull off an operation like that without their assistance."
Crews said the gaming house "had gotten out of control."
"They were bringing people in from all over Tennessee, the types of people they were bringing into this town ... they were dangerous people, drug dealers from other areas, as well as people that were arrested for aggravated gambling promotion in another city," Crews said.
The detective was referring to a gambling bust that took place in December 2006 in La Vergne, in which 22 people were arrested, including a couple from Shelbyville, Steven Colbert and Cathy McPherson, who were charged with the promotion of gambling and aggravated gambling, according to a press release from the city of La Vergne.
The pair were two of the 26 people cited for gambling on Tuesday. Crews said the early part of the investigation involved comparing notes with La Vergne authorities about the 2006 arrests.
Crews said the department was sending a message that "this won't be tolerated. It presents a problem for the city as a whole."
"A lot of people think this is a victimless crime, but ask a lot of these guys' wives if this is victimless," Crews said.
Crews also said that police know this isn't the only gaming house in town, stating that others have "opened up over the last few months."
"They've taken off like wildfire; we're just hoping to cut the head of the snake off."
A total of 33 people are facing charges in connection with a raid on an alleged gaming house in Shelbyville Tuesday night.
Charged with aggravated gambling promotion are:
James C. Tucker, 38, Shelbyville.
Christina D. Tucker, 37, Shelbyville.
Neal C. Phillips, 27, Woodbury.
Samuel C. Owens, 27, Smyrna.
Victor G. Gill, 48, Shelbyville.
Andrew W. Craze, 26, Oliver Springs.
Christian E. Jeppsen II, 24, Bell Buckle.
Charged with misdemeanor gambling are:
Gilbert B. McCarter, 78, Shelbyville.
Michael J. Swain, 36, Shelbyville.
Terry W. Johnson, 50, Columbia.
Cecil H. Robinette, 52, Mt. Pleasant.
Larry D. Wilson, 50, Smyrna.
Anthony Boyce, 35, Shelbyville.
Sompong Ouanevima, 33, Murfreesboro.
Steven R. Colbert, 43, Shelbyville.
Cathy D. McPherson, 24, Shelbyville.
Linda S. Pogue, 62, Huntland.
Shannon H. Jennings, 37, Murfreesboro.
Kenneth C. Spasoff, 24, Wartrace.
Robert D. White, 29, Mt. Pleasant.
Bruce Y. Peery III, 30, Dickson.
Nathan F. Forrest, 34, Nashville.
Donald G. Patterson, 59, Fayetteville.
Christohper W. Simons, 27, Shelbyville.
Audie W. Stewart, 57, Nashville.
Gary A Coleman, 58, Lynchburg.
Timothy L. Hill, 27, Unionville.
James M. Leazott, 53, Lynnville.
Christopher S. Yokely, 20, Ethridge.
Hugh T. Herrington, Jr., 24, Pulaski.
James M. Warr, 63, Memphis.
Pamela J. Williams, 53, Bell Buckle.
Carl E. Harris, 31, Shelbyville.