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Normandie Casino will plead guilty to helping high rollers hide winnings, will forfeit $1.3 million

One of Southern California's oldest casinos has agreed to plead guilty to shielding several high rollers from federal reporting requirements and violating the Bank Secrecy Act, according to court documents filed Friday.

The Normandie Casino in Gardena failed to properly record and report a series of large-scale cash transactions in 2013, according to the documents. The casino also agreed to plead guilty to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, according to a news release issued by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Federal law requires casinos to record the identities, addresses, Social Security numbers and taxpayer information of any gambler who cashes out more than $10,000 in winnings.

The Normandie club, which opened on Rosecrans Avenue in the 1940s, has agreed to forfeit $1.3 million in ill-gotten earnings, documents show. The casino's managing partners also agreed to pay $1 million in federal fines, according to the plea agreement.

"The Normandie has cooperated with the government to resolve this case in a positive way that allows the club to move forward from this investigation and to continue doing business as it has for the past 70 years, as the best gambling establishment in Southern California," said Mark Werksman, the attorney representing the casino.

The casino staff helped its most valued players conceal their winnings by breaking up large transactions into smaller amounts, or by listing the names of "independent gaming promoters," rather than the actual gamblers, when filing reports with the U.S. Treasury, documents show.

Federal prosecutors also accused the casino of failing to scrutinize cash transactions that it "had reason to suspect" were tantamount to money laundering.

In 2013, the casino failed to record identifying information for one player who recorded more than $1 million in winnings during a six-week span, court records show.

“The United States has an array of anti-money laundering statutes designed to prevent criminals from using the American financial system to launder the large sums of cash generated by illegal activity such as organized crime, drug trafficking and human trafficking,” U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “Casinos that fail to follow these rules are particularly vulnerable to criminals who seek to disguise illegal cash as gambling winnings.”

No individual managing partners or owners are facing criminal charges or jail time, according to Werksman, who appeared in court on behalf of the casino Friday. The plea will be formally entered in court later this year.

The club is the last casino operating in Gardena, once considered a haven for gambling in Southern California.

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FOR THE RECORD

Jan. 25, 12:53 p.m.: This story says the Normandie Casino is the last casino operating in Gardena. The Hustler Casino also operates in Gardena.

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In recent decades, the casino has lost many of its players to newer facilities such as the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood. The Commerce Casino also has become popular with Los Angeles-area poker professionals who have made their name on the national circuit in recent years.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in Southern California.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:11 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from federal prosecutors and to reflect that the casino has agreed to enter into a plea agreement. The formal plea will be entered at a later date.

2:29 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from an attorney representing the Normandie.

2:08 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information about fines levied against the casino.

This article was originally published at 1:54 p.m.

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