WSOP poker star faces bookmaking charges

October 09, 2007 4:35 AM
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A poker player who won nearly $3 million at last year’s World Series of Poker has been charged with illegal gambling promotion in Texas.

Richard Lee, who placed sixth in the WSOP’s championship event, may end up losing most of the money he won.

Four men associated with Lee, including his son-in-law, were also charged with the same misdemeanor offense, according to court documents.

The charges are the culmination of a nearly 14-month investigation by San Antonio police into Lee’s alleged online gambling and bookmaking operation, prosecutors say.

During last year’s World Series, Lee was featured wearing a shirt with "San Antonio" emblazoned across the front.

But court and police records quote a "credible source" who says Lee was known behind the scenes as "The Chinaman" and "the biggest bookie" in San Antonio, linked to a Web site that allowed people to place bets.

The Web site, www.betbsbnow.com, pretended to be offshore but was actually a local operation that took bets and collected and paid proceeds from illegal gambling and sports booking, court records say. Police contend Lee’s home was the "nerve center" of the operation.

If convicted the gambling promotion charge is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of $4,000 or both.

The San Antonio Express-News reports plea deals are under way which would allow Lee to avoid jail time and potential felony prosecution.

In exchange, Lee and other defendants would forfeit 80 percent of the money taken from them. Most or all of the personal property and vehicles seized, however, would be returned.

Under the plea bargain, Lee stands to lose the most. Police seized from Lee almost $2.7 million plus a 2005 Lexus LX470, a 2005 Mercedes S430, a 2004 Toyota 4Runner, numerous high-end designer handbags, electronics, watches, jewelry, sports memorabilia and a currency counter.

In court records, prosecutors allege the money is proceeds from the online bookmaking, but Lee’s lawyers contend the nearly $2.7 million is what he won during the poker tournament at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Records show that during the investigation, an undercover detective placed bets to obtain evidence against the group, losing $500. The documents said Lee employed "runners" to help with the operation, and the charging documents list his four co-defendants as having "engaged in a scheme, through a Web site, to receive, record, or forward bets or offers to bet."

In an interview with the Express-News last year, Lee denied doing anything illegal and said he had never engaged in bookmaking. After the raid on his house, he said he had gone from "a hero to zero in the course of a few hours."

Lee said he had made a fortune from selling diamonds and importing silver from Mexico.

Police were not convinced. In court-filed affidavits, they said there was no evidence Lee or any of the other defendants had a job.