Gambling Raid Nets 19 Arrests, Thousands In Cash

Police Investigated Gambling House For Years, Officials Say

Nineteen people were arrested Tuesday night in a raid of a gambling house on Indianapolis' south side, police said.

Investigators said they had been tracking the high-stakes poker operation for three years, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

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An undercover officer had infiltrated a tightly-knit group of gamblers, gaining access to information that led to the raid, police said.

The gambling operation was based in a nondescript office building in the 500 block of National Avenue, between Madison Avenue and East Street, police said.

Police had been able to get video of gambling that was going on inside the building before conducting the raid.

Investigators said William Fortner, 45, was the ringleader. He was arrested on charges of professional gambling and promoting professional gambling. Justin Kirkham, 23, was also arrested on a professional gambling charge.

The other 17 people were arrested on gambling charges: Anthony Ragucci, 63, of Indianapolis; Prudence Twigg, 54, of Carmel; Robert Knowles, 66, of Indianapolis; Matthew Tandal, 22, of Indianapolis; Michael Krulewitch, 44, of Indianapolis; William Firebaugh, 20, of Indianapolis; Ty Straub, 26, of Indianapolis; James Isaacs, 66, of Indianapolis; Brian Hillock, 28, of Greenwood; Brandon Schultz, 22, of Indianapolis; Robert Roberts, 23, of Indianapolis; Tony Gabbard, 24, of Indianapolis; Stacy Cary, 22, of Indianapolis; Cynthia Benjamin, 42, of Indianapolis; Adam Marcom, 39, of Indianapolis; Joshua Bare, 25, of Indianapolis; and Stephan Crumly, 28, of Pendleton.

William Fortner and Justin Kirkham

Firebaugh described himself as a professional gambler.

"I'm just trying to make a living out here, just got caught," he said, adding that he had just returned from Las Vegas. "I play online poker. I pay taxes on it. It's legit ... I just happened to stop by."

Police said they seized boxes of gambling paraphernalia, two handguns, an automobile and nearly $7,000 in cash.

"This is an illegal gambling business. The money always goes somewhere, and it doesn't usually go to charity," said Sgt. John Daggy.

Police said they have taken several complaints over the years about the illegal game, including one from a University of Indianapolis professor who said too many of his young students were playing poker and losing.

"It sends a strong message, hopefully, to the city of Indianapolis and the people out there gambling illegally, that we're out here, and when we get complaints on them, we're going to go after them," said Lt. Richard Kivett.

The arrests came weeks after some leaders in the African-American community complained about what they believe is a disproportionate prosecution of blacks on illegal gambling charges.

The allegation came after multiple raids on "pea shake" houses in recent months. Police at Tuesday night's raid said the "pea shake" houses are easier to track because the game is played openly, unlike the poker ring.

More: Problem Gambling Resources

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