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Three indicted in connection with Poker Palace

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Three men, allegedly connected to organized crime, were indicted on charges related to running a "ghetto casino," the Poker Palace in Jonesboro.

Wayne Edward Reinhardt and James Ivey, have been accused by a Clayton County grand jury in an indictment Wednesday of owning and operating an illegal gambling house, while Norman Earl was indicted on charges of attempting to bribe Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, allegedly offering $5,000 a month to protect the Poker Palace.

Hill's Joint Vice Task Force, a quality of life "crusade" run by the sheriff's office and the Morrow Police Department, raided the Poker Palace in April 2007. The 8647 Tara Boulevard business was holding a Texas Hold 'Em tournament, and the vice force arrested 53 people, including a local judge, seizing $18,000 in cash, video slot machines and bags of poker chips.

During the day, the Poker Palace offered legal card games and gambling lessons, but after the doors officially closed at 8 p.m., the place allegedly opened up illegal, casino-style operations.

According to James Callaway, a Morrow detective who worked with the vice force and headed the April gambling raid, the place was a "ghetto casino," offering a compensated meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Colt 45 malt liquor.

The vice force officer allegedly went into the casino and played poker while wearing a wire, "a covert listening device commonly referred to as a bug," according to court documents. Detectives sent a "confidential informant" in to gamble, and recorded him in conversation with the "person running the business, discussing cash prizes and payment of $265 in cash for the informant's winnings," Callaway wrote in his arrest warrant application.

Ivey was allegedly seen taking and recording the bets on the late-night card game. He was allegedly taking $25 per hand, with promised-to-pay winnings of about $5,000.

Reinhardt's name was on the business license. According to the vice force, Reinhardt is also known as "Luppino Vito," "Morris Gray," and "Sherman Wayne," and has a 50-year criminal record, including convictions in New Jersey and Florida for loan sharking, gambling operations, prostitution and racketeering.

In the lead-up to the raid, while officers reportedly went in and gambled undercover four times, Earl, a 340-pound man, allegedly arranged lunch with the sheriff and offered to pay him for protection. Hill, speaking the day after the arrests, said he was shocked that someone tried to bribe him and shocked the bribe was so small.

Earl allegedly had $500 in an envelope and Hill said, "You're kidding me, right?" He negotiated the monthly bribe up to $5,000, while a detective, and Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker, recorded the conversation and took photos from a distance.

After the 2 a.m., raid, in which 51 people were taken to the county jail, the vice force also arrested Earl, on the bribery charge, and Reinhardt, on charges he owned and operated the illegal gambling enterprise.

The three men are scheduled to appear for arraignment later this month.