2 Men Charged For Charitable Gambling Operation

CINCINNATI (AP) - Two Akron men were arrested Thursday on charges they kept or diverted millions of dollars from an alleged illegal charitable gambling operation.

Authorities said they have seized almost $5 million, some of it hidden in a freezer, as part of a two-year investigation. Ohio Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Julie Ehrhart has said it was one of the largest seizures of cash and property in state history.

James Jackson, 63, and Philip George Jr., 42, surrendered Thursday to sheriff's officers in Cincinnati and were jailed while they await a court arraignment. Bond was set at $25,000 each.

Both were charged with 11 felony and misdemeanor offenses each, which include money laundering, cheating, conspiracy, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, gambling and operating a gambling house.

Investigators said that Jackson and George identified themselves as trustees of Akron-based Child Care Foundation Inc., and helped mislead people playing pull-tab "tip ticket" gambling games into believing the proceeds would help needy children.

In reality, millions of dollars in proceeds were diverted in the operation, authorities said. Investigators were still determining the amount, but estimates have run as high as $60 million, Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen said.

"Over $4.8 million in U.S. currency has already been confiscated, along with truckloads of gambling paraphernalia," he said.

If convicted, Jackson and George could each be sentenced to at least 15 years in prison, Allen said.

The investigation began in 1999 in Cincinnati where authorities unsealed indictments Thursday against the two men. When investigators found the alleged gambling operation was in other parts of Ohio, they brought in state authorities.

In November 2000, authorities in Akron, Mansfield and Tallmadge and the counties of Hamilton, Clermont, Richland and Summit carried out search-warrant raids of 41 taverns and other places that sell liquor, resulting in 163 charges against liquor-permit holders.

Authorities said they believed operators of the businesses were splitting proceeds with Child Care Foundation.

Under Ohio law, nonprofit organizations can sell tip-ticket games to the public if all proceeds go to charity. Private companies or taverns cannot profit from the sale of the games.

During a raid of Jackson's home, authorities said they found more than $4 million, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were wrapped in aluminum foil and hidden in his freezer.

Authorities said four men and three women from the Cincinnati area have pleaded guilty in recent weeks to charges that they sold tickets for the alleged illegal gambling operation or operated a distribution warehouse to support the operation. All seven have been sentenced, with most receiving probation and community-service sentences.

It took a year after the raids for the indictments because so many police agencies were involved and investigators had to sort through seven truckloads of evidence seized in the raids, said Jon Esther, Allen's spokesman.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)