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FBI: Major Gambling Operation Busted in Kona

November 28, 2012, 12:46 PM HST
* Updated November 28, 5:29 PM
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Six Big Island residents were arrested this morning and charged with operating an illegal gambling business in Kona.

Federal officials said 45-year-old Eric Ford was among eight individuals indicted on Nov. 20 by a federal grand jury for involvement in the gambling enterprise operated out of Ford’s business, the Aloha Spring Water Company, located at 73-5574 Olowalu Street in a Kailua-Kona industrial area.

According to the indictment, the illegal gambling allegedly included a sports-betting operations and poker and craps games that extended back to at least November 2009. Federal officials said the gambling also made use of an offshore gaming website.

According to a statement from the office of the US Attorney, others arrested today included Marlo Banasan, 34; Matthew Phillips, 39; Kendale Limahai, 47; Jonah Yardley, 37; and Trevor Carter, 24.

The indictment also charged Ford and another defendant, 44-year-old Barbara Ford, with 25 counts of structuring financial transactions to evade federal reporting requirements, including the reporting of any cash transactions of more than $10,000.

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According to information in the indictment, the two purchased at least 63 money orders totaling more than $151,000. The purchases were made on 25 dates going back to May 2009 at US Postal Service, Safeway, Walmart and Western Union locations in Kailua-Kona.

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The money orders purchased ranged from $609.48 to $2,977.63, with most for even amounts of $2,000 or higher, and no more than four were purchased on any single day, the indictment indicated.

The indictment also said that an unidentified person, at the direction of Eric Ford,  “counted three million dollars.”

Barbara Ford today was served with a summons to appear in federal court for her arraignment on the charges contained in the indictment.

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The eighth defendant, 35-year-old Robert Bland, is now a resident of Arizona.

All of the accused except for Barbara Ford were also charged with conspiracy to conduct illegal gambling and of assisting in the taking of bets, collection of gambling debts and payment of winnings, federal officials said.

The gambling and conspiracy charges each carry a maximum prison term of five years, which is the same for each count of the financial structuring offense.

The case resulted from an investigation started by the Hawaii Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit which was assisted by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.

***Updated at 5:30 p.m. to reflect a correction from the FBI regarding defendant Barbara Ford who was not arrested as earlier reported but served a summons to appear in federal court.***

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