TRENTON - Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that two men were sentenced to jail today for operating an illegal poker club, known as the Runnemede Social Club, out of a storefront in Runnemede. One of the men also ran an illicit off-shore gambling website.
Thomas Rand, 43, of Williamstown, was sentenced to 270 days in jail as a condition of three years of probation by Superior Court Judge John T. Kelley in Camden County. Rand pleaded guilty on Aug. 8 to a third-degree charge of promoting gambling, admitting that he and a partner, Ryan Dion, 33, of Blackwood, ran the Runnemede Social Club as an illegal gambling club inside a storefront at 707B East Clements Bridge Road. Dion pleaded guilty to promoting gambling on July 18 and was sentenced today by Judge Kelley to 364 days in jail and three years of probation.
Four other men who were dealers and cashiers at the club previously pleaded guilty to promoting gambling. Three were sentenced today by Judge Kelley. Nicholas Gibbons, 26, of Stratford, and Gregory Henkel, 42, of Haddonfield, were each sentenced to three years of non-custodial probation, and John Bahn, 28, of Aldan, Pa., was sentenced to one year of non-custodial probation. Gibbons’ father, August Gibbons, 63, of Stratford, is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 24. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail as a condition of a term of probation.
Deputy Attorneys General Pearl Minato and Valerie R. Butler prosecuted the defendants for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The charges stemmed from an undercover investigation by the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section.
The partners, Rand and Dion, profited by taking a portion of the money, or “rake,” out of the pot with each hand of poker played at the Runnemede Social Club. The club was open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings into the early morning hours, and ran up to three Texas Hold’em, no limit poker games at a time. Rand also admitted that he ran an illegal off-shore gambling website from which he collected 10 percent of every losing bet.
“Backroom gambling parlors are not welcome in New Jersey, where we are working hard to eliminate any and all unregulated gambling enterprises that operate in the shadows outside the law,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Those who run these criminal enterprises will end up behind bars like these two men.”
“The only healthy thing about the purported health club these men ran was their profits,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “On the night we raided this illegal poker club in March 2014, detectives seized approximately $26,000 from the operators and players.”
“These three individuals bet against the law and lost,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Illegitimate businesses do nothing to enhance New Jersey's communities, and we will continue to work with our partners to root out those who endeavor to run these underground operations.”
The storefront for the Runnemede Social Club had a sign for the health club “Curves,” but inside were three regulation-sized poker tables, a “cash cage” where poker chips were purchased, and sofas arranged around a large, flat-screen TV. From December 2013 through March, an undercover State Police detective was able to gain access to the club as a poker player and observe the operation. The undercover participated in a number of poker games during that period.
The undercover detective observed all of the defendants in the gambling club, including Rand and Dion, who held large rolls of cash and routinely cashed players in and out at the cage. Henkel also worked in the cage, and August and Nicholas Gibbons were dealers, along with Bahn.
After Rand became acquainted with the undercover detective, Rand invited him to set up a $1,500 account to bet on professional and collegiate sports events on his offshore gambling website. The undercover detective paid Rand $1,000 in cash, and Rand extended him $500 in credit. Rand provided his bank account number so that the undercover detective could settle up with Rand online by transferring money into the account. The undercover detective placed a number of sports bets on the website and settled up his losses with Rand.
The defendants were charged by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice in March 2014.
Detective Sgt. David J. Feldstein and Capt. Matthew Lubertazzi conducted the investigation with the undercover detective for the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section. Deputy Chief of Detectives Daniel O’Brien and Deputy Attorneys General Minato and Butler handled the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.