WEST PARK (CBS4) – The sign may read “Play Now” outside the Santiago Meat Market in West Park but the customers were playing more than the Florida Lottery games inside.
“We think they were moving about $25,000 a day through these businesses,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Dan Fitzpatrick.
Sheriff’s detectives raided the store Monday morning after an undercover investigation exposed what was really happening. Upfront the shop looked like any other mini-mart, but behind a series of doors, however, lay a major gambling operation.
“There was a cashier behind bullet proof glass,” said Fitzpatrick. “You would place a bet and they would give you a computer generated slip showing what your bet was and how much and how much you would receive if your bet won.”
During the raid, Ramon Rodriguez was not a big winner. The Miramar resident had nothing to say as undercover agents led him off to jail on a handful of gambling charges.
His roommate Carlos Pena was also arrested. The sheriff’s office says Pena was the “pit boss” at another store down the street on 64th Avenue.
“They were in charge of who comes and goes,” Fitzpatrick explained.
The 64th Avenue operation was reportedly a multi-service agency, offering everything from travel deals to fitness shakes. Over the course of six months deputies made several wagers. With the Kentucky Derby and the Miami Heat in the playoffs this past weekend cops finally went all in. They came out with boxes of cash.
“We seized over $25,000.” Fitzpatrick said.
Now investigators are pouring over the books hoping to follow the money even further.
“We believe there is a larger organization that actually, there is an ongoing investigation to see the overall organization. This is just a small part,” said Fitzpatrick.
People who lived near the stores and purchase items from them said they had no idea anything like this was happening.
“I come here everyday to get food because I work in a restaurant. I didn’t know that that was going on here,” Anwar Lores told us outside the store.
The sheriff’s office said they expect at least one more arrest in this investigation; an investigation which could lead to something much, much bigger.