Va. Gang Task Force Busts Dragon Family Gambling Ring

By Jane Watrel
|  Friday, Aug 12, 2011  |  Updated 8:49 PM EDT
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Police bust a gambling ring hidden in plain sight in Falls Church, Va.

Jane Watrel

Police bust a gambling ring hidden in plain sight in Falls Church, Va.

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Dozens of law enforcement officers busted an illegal gambling ring in Falls Church, Va., seizing more than $1 million in cash and arresting members of a Vietnamese-American gang.

Falls Church police learned late last fall that the Dragon Family gang was running a sophisticated gambling operation out of a local shopping center -- hidden in plain sight. Gamblers who lost $100,000 to the gang over the course of a year complained to police, so they called the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force for help.

The gambling ring operated out of 13 small coffee shops with names like the HA Cafe and Cafe VV, police said. All were in the Eden Center, a shopping mecca for the local Vietnamese community.

In Operation Aces and Eights, police seized 70 computers that were doctored to look like patrons were merely surfing the Internet.

“The type of gambling is the video machines have been manipulated that it would look like entertainment machines, and then a series of a process that the store managers, owners would have turn it into a gambling machine card game -- blackjack, poker games, stuff like that,” said Lt. Dan Ness, of the task force.

The operation was lucrative. About $1 million in illegal gambling cash was seized in a raid Thursday night.

The Dragon Family operated out of the Eden Center for years, police said.

“Their presence at the Eden Center, in and around the Eden Center, has paralyzed that community,” Hess said. “Particularly, a close knit community such as the Eden Center, it will paralyze the commerce, it will paralyze the ability for people that have legitimate businesses.”

Police didn’t say how many members of the Dragon Family have been arrested, but they are all male and range in age from 16 to 50. The charges range from extortion to gambling. More arrests are coming, police said.

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