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Federal grand jury indicts 8 for gambling


Vida G. Bottom, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Harry S. Kubojiri, police chief of the Hawaii Police Department; Kenneth J. Hines, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; and Florence T. Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii, announced that law enforcement officers have arrested persons on the Big Island indicted by a federal grand jury in Honolulu on Nov. 20, 2012, for operating an illegal gambling business and conspiring to do so.

Charged with those offenses are:

* Eric Ford, age 45
* Marlo Banasan, 34
* Matthew Phillips, 39
* Kendale Limahai, 47
* Robert Bland, 35
* Jonah Yardley, 37
* Trevor Carter, 24

The grand jury also charged Eric Ford and an eighth defendant, Barbara Ford, age 44, with 25 counts of structuring financial transactions for the purpose of evading federal reporting requirements, which include the filing of a currency transaction report with the IRS by a financial institution in regard to any currency transaction over $10,000.

All seven of the Big Island residents, everyone except Bland, now a resident of Arizona, were arrested Wednesday.

Nakakuni said that according to the indictment, Eric Ford operated an illegal gambling business from at least November 2009 until Nov. 20, 2012, out of a water company business in Kailua-Kona.

The indictment alleges that the gambling operation consisted of sports betting and various gambling events, to include poker games and craps games, and used an offshore gaming website.

The six other defendants, not including Barbara Ford, are alleged to have assisted Eric Ford in the taking of bets, collection of gambling debts, and payment of gambling winnings.

If convicted of the gambling and conspiracy charges, each defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years on each count. Each of the structuring charges also carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The charges in the indictment are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The case resulted from an investigation initiated by the Hawaii Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit. Through an established partnership among the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Hawaii Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, investigators were able to uncover the breadth of the illegal gambling enterprise.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar is handling the prosecution.

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