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Alleged Bookmaking Figure Arrested; $54,000 Seized : Crime: Authorities say Los Alamitos man ranks high in one of Southern California’s largest illegal gambling operations.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Authorities on Wednesday arrested a Los Alamitos man accused of being a high-ranking figure in a major Southern California bookmaking ring, confiscating $54,000 that was allegedly earmarked for winning bettors.

The 8 a.m. arrest of Michael Lillie, 28, was part of an eight-month investigation into what Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials described as one of the largest illegal gambling operations in the Southland.

Lt. David Kading said the bookmaking ring takes bets for almost every type of sporting event, including Monday night football and horse racing. It is one of only a handful of organized operations now thought to be operating in the Southland, he said.

Authorities said the ring’s weekly take could be as high as several million dollars.

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The Sheriff’s Department’s vice bureau has recently shifted its efforts in cracking illegal gambling rings by concentrating on the arrest of organization leaders rather than individual bettors.

“This is a home run for us,” Kading said. “This guy we arrested is pretty high up in the organization.”

Kading said that Lillie was identified as an “owe-and-pay” agent during the department’s long-running undercover operation. Owe-and-pay agents deliver and collect money from local bookmakers, and have little or no contact with gamblers.

“He did not take bets,” Kading said, adding that investigators did not believe the ring was connected with the Los Alamitos Race Course.

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Kading said that undercover detectives, who infiltrated the organization by placing bets, learned through several sources about an Orange County man who had an owe-and-pay route that covered both Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Investigators set up a surveillance several months ago at known drop-off points, Kading said. “The same guy kept showing up,” Kading said, “and we started following him.”

The tail on Lillie garnered enough evidence for detectives to secure a warrant for a search of the suspect’s Green Street apartment in Los Alamitos, Kading said.

Arrested as he was leaving his home Wednesday morning, Lillie was carrying an athletic bag stuffed with white envelopes, Kading said.

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Each envelope, allegedly intended to be dropped off with a local bookmaker, contained at least one $100 bill and some had thousands of dollars, he added.

In all, $54,000 was confiscated, Kading said.

Lillie was being held on $10,000 bail at the Orange County Jail. He is to be arraigned Friday in Municipal Court in Westminster on one count of bookmaking, a felony.

The arrest could be a boon for detectives, Kading said, because of telephone numbers and other evidence found in Lillie’s apartment that might link him to others in the gambling organization. The organization’s leaders have not been identified, Kading said.

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“We’re all continuing to identify the top players in the organization,” Kading said. “At this time, we really don’t know who’s who.”

But in the meantime, the confiscation of the $54,000 intended for paying off winning bets should hurt the ring, Kading said.

“They are going to have to make good on those bets,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than a spurned bettor. The bookie really can’t lose face and lose customers.”


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