Police arrest Mission man during game room raid

When police raided a game room near the McAllen airport last month, they arrested a 20-year-old Mission man for working the door.

The McAllen Police Department arrested Juan Angel Varela, 20, of Mission on May 25, when the Special Investigations Unit raided the game room, according to McAllen Municipal Court records.

20180608 JuanAngelVarelaInvestigators believe Varela guarded the gate, allowing patrons to enter and exit the game room, according to the criminal complaint against him. Varela also had keys to the slot machines.

“Mr. Varela is looking forward to having his day in court,” said attorney Eric Jarvis of McAllen, who represents him.

An anonymous tip and a lucky break led investigators to the eight-liner establishment, according to court records.

In April, a tipster told the McAllen Police Department about illegal gambling at a building on the 4500 block of South 10th Street — southeast of the McAllen airport.
Whether or not police investigated the initial tip remains unclear.

In mid-May, though, an investigator working a border security assignment conducted surveillance on the building.

Several cars entered and exited a parking lot hidden behind a white fence. The investigator stopped one of the cars and started questioning the driver.

After initially saying he’d just left a shop, the driver admitted he’d actually just left a game room, according to the criminal complaint. He also told the investigator about another game room on Old South 10th Street, but asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation.

The Special Investigations Unit started planning an undercover operation.

When investigators returned, the building on the 4500 block of South 10th Street had closed for the day. However, the second game room on Old South 10th Street appeared busy.

Officers conducted another traffic stop. The driver provided a phone number for the second game room, but it had already closed for the night.

The Special Investigations Unit had better luck the next day.

When they called the phone number, a guard opened the gate. Waitresses welcomed them to a white mobile home packed with slot machines.

“The female waitresses all had the same beige carpenters apron around their waists where they kept currency,” according to court records.

Undercover investigators played the machines, but didn’t win any money. Another pair of investigators had better luck, winning $30. The waitresses paid cash.

The Special Investigations Unit started drafting arrest warrants and raided the game room on May 25.

Varela attempted to run away, according to the criminal complaint against him. When police caught him, Varela claimed he was just a customer.

Officers charged Varela with evading arrest. After he posted bond, Varela went to the police department to retrieve his car — and police arrested him again on three misdemeanor gambling charges.

Investigators also arrested:

> Vilma Nathalie Castillo, 30, of Edinburg, who is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a state jail felony; gambling promotion, a Class A misdemeanor; keeping a gambling place, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of gambling devices or equipment, a Class A misdemeanor.

> Jaime Torres Nava, 34, of Hidalgo, who is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a state jail felony; gambling promotion, a Class A misdemeanor; keeping a gambling place, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of gambling devices or equipment, a Class A misdemeanor.

> Julian Rodriguez Gonzalez, 40, of McAllen, who is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a state jail felony; gambling promotion, a Class A misdemeanor; keeping a gambling place, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of gambling devices or equipment, a Class A misdemeanor.

> Robinson Ronald Jimenez, 37, who is charged with keeping a gambling place, a Class A misdemeanor. Jail records don’t list an address for Jimenez.

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