Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blackjack Cheat Snagged Cheating Church Blackjack Game!

Blackjack cheating your local church! I have heard of lows but that is about the lowest of all of them. Even I have never cheated at a church blackjack game! Cheating at a party blackjack nite, that´s one thing...but a church...that´s a sin! Well, I´m glad the guy got caught. It turns out he was a card-mucker, palming cards (aces and tens) out of play and putting them back in when he needed them. Here´s what happened:

WHEN THE KING of diamonds and the ace of spades kept coming up winners in Roland "Rico" Chapa's blackjack hands last year, a dealer at the church festival called in the pit boss.

Other players at the table accused Chapa, a 67-year-old used-car dealer, of palming the cards from the deck.

Now, Chapa's 30-year lucky streak as a self-described bookmaker and "gangster" might be over after a Franklin County jury convicted him of cheating, a felony in Ohio for those like Chapa with a previous gambling conviction or someone who tries to corrupt the outcome of a bet of more than $500.

Money changed hands so fast at the St. Timothy Church fundraiser on July 14 that no one remembers how many hands Chapa played before pit boss Rob Gardner called him a cheat, said Assistant County Prosecutor Amanda Lowe.

Then festival organizers called authorities.

Lowe called five witnesses on Friday to prove the rarely-used criminal code before Common Pleas Judge Richard S. Sheward. One said a two of spades dropped from Chapa's slacks when he stood up to empty his pockets.

Chapa testified that he is a diabetic who drank too much that night and was left behind by two buddies. He said he walked into the festival with $650 and left with $450.

"I actually lost money that night. I told them (deputies) if the Catholics wanted more money, I'd have given them the $400 I had and kept $50 for a cab," he said in an interview before the verdict.

Chapa said sheriff's detectives have been after him for 10 years.

"They wanted me to rat out other bookmakers, and I don't know any."

Instead of arresting him, deputies called a cab and sent Chapa packing.

Chapa, who wore a white suit, black shirt and gold alligator belt buckle, seemed relaxed about his chances. When asked how long he has gambled, he replied, "Can I take the Fifth on that?"

It took a jury less than 30 minutes to convict him yesterday of cheating and possession of criminal tools. Sheward set sentencing for Aug. 6; Chapa faces up to two years in prison for the hustle. His daughter Katrina said authorities have harassed Chapa for more than 30 years.

"We will immediately appeal this," she said.

Defense attorney Lewis T. Dye told jurors that his client was too drunk to cheat.

"They waited six months after his last arrest to bring this case," said Dye, whose father has represented Chapa in earlier gambling cases.

Chapa's apartment at 6998 Sawmill Village Dr. on the Northwest Side was raided in 2007 as a sports bookmaking operation, the sheriff's office says. He agreed to plead to one count of gambling.

According to a search warrant, an investigation found that Chapa met customers at area sports bars and offered to take their bets for a 10 percent service charge.

Bets also were placed at the car lot where Chapa works.

An affidavit used to obtain the warrant said Chapa told a detective that he had been a bookmaker and "gangster" for more than 30 years.