For Bicycle Hotel and Casino, located in Bell Gardens, California, Tuesday started out just like every other day did. Employees shuffled in for work, patrons began arriving, and then, out of nowhere, everything was flipped on its head. The reason for this was due to an unannounced raid by Federal Authorities.
The Feds showed up and seized countless financial records as part of an ongoing investigation into a alleged money laundering operation that the casino (and those that run it) helped facilitate.
When the press went looking for answers as to why the hotel and casino was raided, Virginia Kice, spokesperson for LA’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment. Not only would she not elaborate on what, exactly, Federal Authorities are hoping to find, she did not speak with regard to the nature of the investigation in general. The only information she did offer was that a “search warrant issued by a US magistrate judge was filed under seal in relation to an ongoing investigation.”
Though this whole situation is a bit unclear at the present moment in time, law enforcement officials close to the situation made it clear that the Federal Government is attempting to determine whether the California casino was used but individuals in order to launder illicitly gained cash.
Essentially, the investigation is looking into whether a situation where individuals with illegal cash came in, exchanged the cash for chips, played with the chips, and then returned the chips to the casino in exchange for what would now be “clean” money. If a situation like this did play out at Bicycle Hotel and Casino, this would not be a first. Casinos have long been a go-to place for people who are looking to launder money because one can come and go freely and exchange chips for money without having to do so much as provide valid ID. The investigation into Bicycle Hotel and Casino is just beginning, but this is not the first time this site has been the victim of an investigation.
According to the LA Times, the Bell Gardens location was seized in the Spring of 1990 by the DEA after it was discovered that illegal, drug-related money helped fund the construction of the site. It was then discovered that more than half of the $22 million it took to construct the casino stemmed directly from drug-smuggling operations in Florida. As a result, the US government became a part owner of the casino. The government has since sold its stake in the casino hotel, but it has still been the center of a lot of intrigue; and not good intrigue either.
The casino is known for its near-200 poker and other casino tables, as well as a full range of other casino games.
The hotel aspect of the site only opened about a year and a half ago and is situated directly adjacent to the casino. This story is still in its infancy, but it is one we will be following closely as things progress.