Attorney General Bill Lockyer Announces Arrests in Illegal Shakedown Scheme at Los Angeles Card Club
(LOS ANGELES) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the arrest of two men accused of operating an illegal shakedown scheme at the Bicycle Club Casino in Los Angeles. The two men, James Wang and Jim Mar, each have been charged with multiple felony violations stemming from their alleged extortion of more than a half-million dollars in goods, casino playing chips and cash from Progressive Gaming Group (“PGG”), a third-party business which operated at the Bicycle Club. The arrests stem from a long-term investigation by the Attorney General’s Division of Gambling Control (“DGC”) with the aid and assistance of Bicycle Club owners, legal staff and senior management.
Wang, who is the Vice President of Casino Operations at the Bicycle Club, and Mar, who is a gambling consultant, allegedly used threats and other coercive tactics to extract more than $500,000 from PGG between 2001 and 2004. Under California law, private companies are allowed to contract with licensed cardrooms to provide so-called “prop players”, persons who play at the casino with the financial backing of private bankers. The cardroom benefits from the arrangement by being able to provide customers with potentially lucrative games, and the prop player companies benefit when and if their players are successful at the games.
PGG had a contract with the Bicycle Club to provide prop player services, however Wang and Mar threatened to block renewal of the contract unless the company met their various demands, including: providing more than $450,000 in casino playing chips, a $21,000 gold Rolex watch, and $81,000 in cash.
Wang was arrested at the Bicycle Club this afternoon on five felony charges of extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, grand theft, and two counts of commercial bribery. Mar was arrested at his home this afternoon on two felony charges of conspiracy to commit extortion and commercial bribery. Both men were booked at the L.A. County Jail and will be prosecuted by the Los Angeles District Attorney. Bail was set at $130,000 for Wang and $75,000 for Mar. Additional arrests are anticipated in this investigation.
“The Bicycle Club and other cardrooms have been strong supporters of state and local efforts to root out corruption in the gambling industry,” said Bob Lytle, Director of the Attorney General’s DGC. “With the enactment of legislation that will increase cardroom fees, the division will be able to obtain the manpower and resources we need to investigate even more gambling related crimes in California.”