Prosecutors drop gambling charges against western Hidalgo County businessman

Prosecutors dropped gambling charges against a western Hidalgo County businessman last month — after he agreed to surrender nearly $77,000.

The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office dropped the gambling charges against Jose Manuel Salazar, 67, of Mission on June 4.

20180727 JoseManuelSalazarSalazar apparently negotiated a deal with the District Attorney’s Office: He would surrender nearly $77,000 and the motherboards from 92 slot machines. In exchange, prosecutors would drop two misdemeanor gambling charges against him.

“I don’t comment on my cases,” said attorney Noe L. Perez of Edinburg, who represented Salazar.

District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Investigators with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office started investigating Salazar last year, when they received tips about someone named “Manuel” who managed game rooms in western Hidalgo County.

More details emerged during December, when investigators raided a game room on the 4700 block of North Trosper Road.

Investigators arrested a woman who said she worked for Salazar, according to court records. The Sheriff’s Office seized nearly $1,200 and 29 slot machines from the building.

When the Sheriff’s Office raided a game room on the 1500 block of Mesquite Lane, they heard a similar story.

The doorman said Salazar paid him $60 per day, according to court records. Every week, the doorman went to Salazar’s business and collected the money.

Deputies seized about $1,000 and 32 slot machines from the game room. They also started investigating Salazar.

The Sheriff’s Office identified Salazar as the owner of Salazar Concrete on Farm-to-Market Road 2221 and another business called “D’cache assesorios” near the intersection of 3 Mile Line and Bentsen Palm Drive, according to court records.

The Special Operations Division conducted simultaneous raids on Salazar’s home and business on Jan. 18.
Investigators seized slot machines from Salazar’s garage and business, according to court records. They also found ledgers and a large amount of cash.

The Sheriff’s Office charged Salazar with engaging in organized criminal activity, a state jail felony; gambling promotion, a Class A misdemeanor; and keeping a gambling place, a Class A misdemeanor.

Prosecutors also filed a civil forfeiture case against Salazar, asking a judge for permission to keep about $89,000 and motherboards from 92 slot machines.
Salazar struck a deal with prosecutors.

He agreed to forfeit nearly $77,000 and the slot machine motherboards, according to court records.

Prosecutors returned the remaining money to Salazar and agreed to drop the misdemeanor gambling charges.

County Court at Law Judge Omar Maldonado dismissed the charges on June 4, signing orders that listed the reason for the dismissals as: “Other: Asset forfeiture has been resolved; agreement to dismiss case.”

Other people arrested during the investigation weren’t as fortunate.

Suhey Hernandez, 38, of Mission pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor gambling charges. County Court at Law Judge Arnoldo Cantu Jr. placed her on probation for eight months.

Edwin Adalin Martinez, 29, of Mission spent 45 days in jail because he couldn’t post bond. Martinez pleaded guilty and County Court at Law Judge Federico “Fred” Garza Jr. sentenced him to time served.

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