PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Standing behind nearly $70,000 in cash, betting slips and laptops, Providence police said Thursday they have broken up a large-scale gambling ring that was operating out of several storefronts and residential properties on the city’s South Side and in the West End.
In a press conference at the Providence Public Safety Complex, officials said nine individuals were arrested after police executed five search warrants on April 9. Police also recovered a quarter kilo of fentanyl, the potent painkiller that has been linked to a spike in heroin overdoses throughout the country in recent years.
Police say the arrests and seizures are the result of two gambling networks, one of which was run out of three businesses and two residences in Providence. The businesses were Yami Cell Phones on Broad Street, Vanidades Lumy on Cranston Street, and Moviles y Mas on Prairie Avenue. Eyewitness News visited all three businesses Thursday and found them closed down.
Also on April 9, police say they conducted a raid at a fourth business, Quisquevana 401 Multiservice on Broad Street. As of Thursday afternoon, the business was still open. A store clerk told Eyewitness News she was on vacation during Saturday’s raid and would not comment further.
At that store, police say Felix Vasquez aka Dionis Arias was running the gambling ring. At his Warwick home, police say they recovered the fentanyl, worth $60,000 on the street.
The following people were charged with organized criminal gambling business, bookmaking, forms of gambling prohibited and keeping a gambling place.
- Stephany Cabrera, age 24
- Pamela Espinal, age 20
- Noel Acevedo, age 42
- Ivelisse Bencosme, age 22
- Frannys Gomez Urbaez, age 37
- Kelvin Leonel Vasquez Bisono, age 35
The following were charged with gambling and lotteries, keeping of gambling places, gambling and lottery forms of gambling prohibited and bookmaking:
- Felix Vasquez aka Dionis Arias, age 45
- Francisco Espinal alias John Doe, age 27
- Mery Garcia, age 22
“It’s absolutely necessary that we address these operations in Providence, and particularly because of the drugs involved, we know that the fine work of the police department has indeed saved lives,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said.
Police said the gambling operations were collecting bets on sports and on numbers that appeared to come from the legitimate Dominican Republic lottery. Police did not know how many customers were placing bets.
“The danger to the community is that they might not know that if they win, they may not be able to collect,” Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said.
Pare said the arrests were not connected to a State Police investigation into illegal gambling in Warwick and Narragansett earlier this week.
Police are still investigating whether these two Providence rings are connected to each other – and they say more arrests are possible.