Four arrested in robbery at illegal casino that left a security guard dead
Detectives have arrested four men accused of orchestrating the robbery of a gambling parlor last week in the Hollywood Hills. A security guard was shot to death during the incident.
Matthew Scott Riley, 29, and Rudy Javier Madrid, 26, are charged with murder in the shooting death of Anthony Rivas, 32, who was providing security at the illegal casino in the 3300 block of Cahuenga Boulevard when he was gunned down in the early morning hours of May 31, said Los Angeles Police Det. Gabriel Bucknell.
Steven Hans Dunkel, 23, and Michael John Blankenship, 52, face charges of conspiring to commit robbery, Bucknell said. All four men were arrested Monday. It couldn’t be determined Wednesday whether they had lawyers who could speak on their behalf.
A man who was shot to death early Wednesday in a robbery attempt near Universal Studios was working as a security guard at an illegal casino, authorities say.
Authorities believe the defendants were operating as a robbery crew that targeted high-stakes card games. Dunkel, a Glendora resident with no criminal history, worked in various gambling parlors as a card dealer and is suspected of being the crew’s “inside man,” Bucknell said.
The parlor on Cahuenga Boulevard was located inside a commercial storefront owned by a surgeon, according to Bucknell. The surgeon said he thought his building was being rented out as a hookah lounge, but the operator of the gambling parlor admitted paying the owner $10,000 a month to host card games two nights a week, Bucknell said.
Inside the building the night Rivas was killed, police found two large poker tables, a kitchen and bar staffed by a chef and bartender, and several prostitutes, Bucknell said, and a valet was parking cars in a nearby gated lot.
Authorities believe Blankenship, an Oxnard resident, was used as a decoy. He entered the gambling parlor wearing a large knife in a sheath, probably to make sure the door was not locked and to distract any security guards inside the building, Bucknell said.
Seconds after Blankenship was confronted by Rivas, Riley and Madrid burst in wearing ski masks and carrying assault rifles, police allege. Rivas drew his gun, and both Riley and Madrid shot him, according to the detective. Once the shooting started, roughly 30 people inside the gambling parlor ran out onto Cahuenga Boulevard.
Blankenship, Riley and Madrid fled to a nearby alley, where Dunkel was waiting behind the wheel of a silver Dodge Challenger, according to Bucknell. They did not make off with any money, according to police.
Detectives believe Dunkel may have set up other robberies of illegal gambling parlors in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. After Rivas was killed, Bucknell said he received tips from parlor operators who told him, “Every time this guy is a dealer, we get robbed.”
Bucknell drew a distinction between these establishments, which offer high-stakes card games and expensive amenities, and casitas, where patrons play lower-payoff, though still illegal, electronic games of chance in cheap storefronts, converted garages and vacant buildings.
Casitas represent ‘more than just gambling,’ says a Los Angeles sheriff’s detective. ‘It’s extortion, it’s murder, it’s assault.’
Casitas have emerged as a major source of revenue for the Mexican Mafia, whose imprisoned members have sought to “tax” gambling rackets within the territory of street gangs under their control. Those who threaten that revenue have been beaten, abducted or killed, authorities say.
One woman who worked at a casita in an abandoned warehouse in Baldwin Park testified that she was kidnapped and shot in the back after being accused of pocketing money during a shift.
Another woman, suspected of stealing from the casita on Whittier Boulevard where she worked, was found dead on a Boyle Heights street. She had been shot four times in the head.
The LAPD has asked anyone with information about the Cahuenga Boulevard robbery to contact Bucknell at (818) 374-1928.
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