Residents of San Francisco’s most notorious neighborhood for underground gambling dens saw a bust go down again this month — something that’s become a fairly regular occurrence. On Oct. 17, police officers raided Jhec of All Trades at 4182B Mission St., an unappealing hole-in-the-wall that was home to at least three slot machine games, 15 computers used to gamble, and more than $6,400 in cash.
Mission Local, who had a reporter investigate the spot, notes that the windows were covered in makeshift curtains to hide the den’s activities, fans blasted in a weak attempt to circulate the air, and the guy manning the cash desk wore “a V-neck white undershirt and what appear to be boxer shorts and no pants.”
His identity wasn’t revealed in the article, but four people were arrested in the October bust for the possession and operation of illegal gambling devices. On Monday, Kenneth Gurriere, 56, Richard Mohler, 34, Malcolm Brian Vasquez, 49 and Marjorie Delacruz, 49 pleaded not guilty in a San Francisco court.
Vasquez and Delacruz have prior charges of felony conspiracy and misdemeanor counts of slot machine possession from a 2016 bust, which has yet to go to trial. But that’s just the tip of the gambling iceberg.
“There’s been an increase in these types of operations, and our Crime Strategies Unit is responding by working collaboratively with police and other agencies to ensure these operators are held accountable,” District Attorney George Gascón says. “Successfully stopping this type of activity requires strategic interventions that come with consequences.”
One strategy that appears to work is the deployment of undercover officers — one of whom entered Jhec of All Trades two days in a row and saw the suspects in action. But if officers can’t catch the any lawbreakers in the act, there must be another reason to obtain a search warrant — which can sometimes be difficult to dig up.
As a result, dens have proliferated, to the point where major city representatives have taken notice. City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against repeat-offender Kingston Shack at 3437 Mission St., in February 2015, and eight months later, then-Sup. John Avalos held a gambling den hearing in front of the whole Board. Neither appears to have quelled the growth.
And with Avalos no longer representing the Ingleside and Excelsior districts, the problem is in Sup. Ahsha Safai’s hands. “Gambling shacks have been terrorizing our neighborhoods for years,” he acknowledges. But he’s hopeful: “The District Attorney’s Office, City Attorney, and the Police Department have all stepped up, and we all will not rest until the last shack is closed!”