Ken Paxton

Monday, August 17, 2009

Aces Wired Pleads Guilty in Statewide Gambling Case, Forfeits More than $1 Million in Assets

CORPUS CHRISTI An Aces Wired entity today pled guilty to operating an illegal gambling operation. In addition to the corporation’s plea, founder and board member Gordon Graves, 72, pled guilty to felony tampering with evidence charges.

The state’s investigation into Aces Wired and its executives is believed to be the largest coordinated gambling prosecution in Texas history. Roughly $1 million in assets also must be forfeited by Aces Wired because of the guilty pleas.

Today’s guilty pleas stem from a joint effort by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office. The Office of the Attorney General is acting as special assisting prosecutor at the request of Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez. The state’s Aces Wired investigation and the Nueces County guilty pleas reflect a coordinated statewide investigative effort by the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Public Safety, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the Potter County District Attorney’s Office, the Coryell County District Attorney’s Office and the Taylor County District Attorney’s Office.

In May 2008, officers with the Corpus Christi Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Attorney General executed a search warrant at Aces Wired's Corpus Christi location, which did business as Ace Amusement Center #5. Similar raids were simultaneously conducted in other counties across Texas.

During the Corpus Christi operation, officers seized 90 gambling devices, including so-called 8-liner machines, and $175,000 in cash and bank account assets. Graves’ third-degree felony tampering with evidence plea is associated with his efforts to prevent law enforcement from locating, identifying and seizing gambling devices at Ace Amusement centers. Under his agreement with the state, Graves must fully cooperate with authorities’ ongoing investigation, pay a $5,000 fine, and have no involvement with 8-liner video slot machines or other gambling devices, in any capacity.

Three other Aces Wired officers await court appearances in Tarrant County. They are Jeremy Tyra, 27, Knowles Cornwell, 57, and Kenneth Griffith, 59, all of Dallas. All three suspects are expected to plead guilty to hindering apprehension, which is a Class A misdemeanor. The suspects’ guilty pleas stem from their efforts to shield Aces Wired employees from law enforcement during the May 2008 raid, at Aces Wired Amusement Center facilities across the state.

Aces Wired defendants are also expected to enter felony guilty pleas in Tarrant and Bexar counties. Corporate entities will plead guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity for gambling promotion, a state jail felony, and possession of gambling devices, a Class A misdemeanor. The company must pay $14,000 in fines in each of the three jurisdictions, for a total of $42,000. As a result of the guilty pleas, the corporate entities will be subject to forfeiture of all seized property under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Approximately 600 8-liner machines were seized in statewide raids last year.

In March 2008, the Office of the Attorney General joined an investigative effort organized by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Intelligence Service to prepare these cases. This investigative team also included district attorneys’ offices in Tarrant, Nueces and Bexar counties, Dallas and Corpus Christi police departments’ vice units, as well as officers with the San Antonio Police Department. Prosecution of the cases was coordinated by the Office of the Attorney General, Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez, Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed and the acting Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon, Jr.