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Polk County Illegal Gambling Ring Busted

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Editor's Review

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Polk Gambling Ring

Lakeland, Florida – Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives served four search warrants and arrested 25 people Thursday after an investigation into illegal sports betting occurring at two storefront locations in Polk County. The investigation is an outgrowth of the “No Snow For Christmas” narcotics investigation (Shawn Bordeaux Drug Trafficking Organization) announced in December 2015, by the PCSO. During that investigation 19 people were arrested on misdemeanor gambling charges, and detectives seized $127,617.00 in U.S. currency, $97,500 worth of assets, 7 firearms, approximately 5 pounds of cocaine, and 2 ounces of methamphetamine.


Multiple references to an illegal sports betting operation occurring at BD&W Check Cashing located at 2407 U.S. Hwy 98, Lakeland were discovered during the drug trafficking investigation. While investigating this location, and the operator of the Illegal gambling operation, 49-year-old Rene “Johnny” Rosado of Lakeland, detectives discovered another storefront gambling location in Winter Have (1408 1st Street North).

Search Warrants were served at four locations Thursday:

* BW&D Check Cashing at 2407 Hwy 98, Lakeland, FL is where 49-year-old Rene “Johnny” Rosado was operating the Illegal gambling operation.
* 8197 Bristol Bay Ave, Lakeland, 49-year-old Rene “Johnny” Rosado’s residence.
* 6403 Green Rd, Lakeland, 60-year-old Warren Hawthorne’s residence. Hawthorne is the owner of BD&W Check Cashing and is renting space used by Rosado for the illegal gambling operation.
* 1408 1st Street North, Winter Haven, (doing business as “My Wireless”) the Winter Haven gambling location.

Undercover detectives previously completed 9 transactions pertaining to illegal sports bets at the Lakeland location and 3 illegal sports bet transactions at the Winter Haven location.

Arrested on Thursday, March 24, 2016 were:

* 49-year-old Rene “Johnny” Rosado of 8197 Bristol Bay Ave, Lakeland. He has been charged with Keeping Gambling Houses (1 count) F3, Illegal Bookmaking (1 count) F3, and Conspire to Illegal Bookmaking (2 counts) F3. Rosado’s criminal history includes several arrests: 03/22/1990; New York City PD for Criminal Possession Controlled Substance, 08/17/2015; Lakeland PD for DUI, and 08/17/1993; Orange County SO for Unlawful Flight.
* 60-year-old Warren Hawthorne of 6403 Green Rd, Lakeland. He has been charged with Renting House for Gambling Purposes (1 count) F3. Hawthorne is a Polk County School Board bus driver and utilizes the issued School Bus (Bus #1521) for transportation. Hawthorne is also the owner of BD&W Check Cashing and is renting space used by Rosado for the illegal gambling operation.
* 22-year-old Alba Adams-Diaz, Olender Dr, Lakeland. She has been charged with Agents or employees of keeper of gambling house (1 count) F3, Illegal bookmaking (3 counts) F3, and Conspire to Illegal Bookmaking (3 counts) F3. Adams is a teller who takes bets at the Lakeland illegal gambling operation.
* 29-year-old Lidianela Pons, King Avenue, Lakeland. She has been charged with Agents or Employees of Keeper of a Gambling House (1 count) F3, Illegal Bookmaking (3 counts) F3, and Conspire Illegal Bookmaking (3 counts) F3. She is a teller who takes illegal sports bets at the Lakeland gambling location.
* 20-year-old Luis Felipe Arias of Big Oaks Drive, Lakeland. He is charged with Agents or Employees of Keeper of a Gambling House (1 count) F3 and Illegal Bookmaking (2 counts) F3. Arias assists Rene “Johnny” Rosado in the operation of the Winter Haven.
* 48-year-old Maribel Sanchez-Lorenzo, Bristol Bay Ave, Lakeland. She is charged with Possession of Cannabis under 20 grams and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Sanchez-Lorenzo lives with Rene “Johnny” Rosado at the Bristol Bay Avenue address and was arrested for the drug charges when deputies were serving the search warrant at the residence.

Detectives have been unable to locate one of the suspects in the investigation; there is an outstanding arrest warrant for: 29-year-old Monica Lugo of Lakeland. The charges on the warrant are: Agents or Employees of Keeper of a Gambling House (1 count) F3, Illegal Bookmaking (1 count) F3, and Conspire Illegal bookmaking (1 count) F3. She assisted in the operation of the Winter Haven illegal gambling operation.

After detectives served the search warrants at the two storefront locations (BW&D Check Cashing at 2407 Hwy 98, Lakeland, and “My Wireless” at 1408 1st St North in Winter Haven) detectives then operated a reverse sting operation as gamblers came to the illegal gambling locations to collect on previous bets made or to place new bets. During this time, detectives arrested another 19 people on Unlawful Betting (849.142nd degree misdemeanor) charges and other miscellaneous charges:

Detectives seized $35,322.00 in U.S. currency at Rene “Johnny” Rosado’s residence (8197 Bristol Bay Ave, Lakeland) during the search warrant. Detectives seized $41,436.00 dollars in U.S. currency, and 8 firearms at Warren Hawthorne’s residence (6403 Green Rd, Lakeland). Two of the firearms, a Intratec Scorpion .22 caliber pistol (Lakeland Police Department) and a Smith & Wesson 9mm (Winter Haven Police Department) were confirmed to be stolen. A Sig Sauer 9mm was also located with an altered serial number.

During the investigation, detectives arrested 25 people, seized 8 guns, 2 of the firearms being stolen, seized $105,347.00 in U.S. currency and approximately $34,000 in assets linked to the illegal gambling operation. A total of $139,347.00 dollars in currency and assets linked to the illegal gambling operation were seized during the investigation. The Investigation is on-going.

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