Gambling Commission agents break up loansharking and money laundering operation at Tukwila casino

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Gambling Commission has arrested two people and suspended a third person's gambling license for their roles in a loansharking and money laundering operation at a Tukwila casino.

We have a card room employee who took advantage of her position and preyed on people with gambling problems, said Director Dave Trujillo. It is our duty to protect the public from people like her.

Over the past two years, the Washington State Gambling Commission and the Tukwila Police Department have received numerous complaints regarding loansharking and money laundering activities at Macau Casino in Tukwila. A joint investigation revealed that a female employee was loaning cash and chips to casino patrons and was charging exorbitant interest rates on the loans - in some cases, up to 10 times the maximum interest rate allowed under Washington state law. After reviewing surveillance video, investigators determined that the suspect provided approximately 100 loans to employees and patrons, totaling at least $300,000.

The suspect frequently targeted patrons and employees who clearly had gambling problems. Many of them were earning minimum wage and struggled just to pay the monthly or weekly interest (10 - 15%) owed on the loans. The suspect, her boyfriend and other associates utilized fear tactics and threatened violence in order to collect on debts.

Records indicate that the suspect also laundered approximately $1.5 million through the casino. That amount of cash is nearly 10 times the suspect's reported annual income. The source of the cash is still under investigation.

Search warrants were served at both the suspect's residence and the casino. At the residence, agents seized many items believed to be purchased with illicit funds including: a luxury vehicle, jewelry, big-screen TVs, high-end handbags, and numerous smartphones, tablets and gaming platforms still in the original packaging. Agents also seized more than $45,000 in cash. At the casino, operations were suspended for several hours while agents gathered evidence and interviewed employees.

The 45-year-old female suspect and her 27-year-old boyfriend were arrested and booked into jail on charges of collection of unlawful debt, money laundering, and use of extortionate means to collect extensions of credit.

The investigation also revealed that the casino's general manager, a 48-year-old male from Federal Way, was aware of the loansharking and money laundering activities, but failed to report them to the Gambling Commission. As a result, his gambling license has been suspended.

The investigation is ongoing.