Posted on: November 28, 2020, 06:56h.
Last updated on: November 28, 2020, 06:56h.
One of two Israeli brothers behind an illegal slot machine empire that once stretched across northern California is finally facing justice in the US. Orel Gohar, 30, fled to Israel in 2017, as the net closed in on the operation, dubbed the Gohar Organization by authorities.
Gohar was arrested by Israeli police in Tel Aviv in December 2019, where he had been “moving frequently between apartments to evade authorities,” according to court documents.
On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California to illegal gambling, money laundering, and failing to appear.
On the Lam
Before its disruption, the Gohar organization had around 500 video slot machines installed in smoke shops, bars, and other businesses across seven counties, which were generating tens of thousands of dollars a day. One San Francisco store alone was taking up to $12,000 a week in revenue, prosecutors said.
They have accused the organization of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars through a cosmetics business and a bogus construction company.
Prosecutors believe the brains behind the operation was Yaniv Gohar, Orel’s brother, who was sentenced to four years in prison in September 2019. Meanwhile, Orel was the point man of the operation, who boasted of personally earning $500k per year from the gambling ring.
The Gohars were among seven people charged when police broke up the ring in December 2017. Despite prosecutors’ objections, they were released on bond two weeks after their arrest. Just days later, Yaniv crashed a Porsche Panamera into a parked car in Berkeley and was cited for reckless driving, failure to stop, and breaching his release conditions.
Then they disappeared. The brothers fled to Israel by taking a chartered jet to Mexico — bribing officials there to let them into the country — then to Paris, and on to Tel Aviv.
Yaniv was arrested in Israel in July 2019 and extradited back to the United States shortly after.
Orel is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
‘Dino the Casino’
In September 2017, another Israeli citizen, Neve Hagay, also known as “Dino the Casino,” was sentenced to two years in prison for installing hundreds of slots machines in small businesses from Bakersfield to Sacramento and for distributing cocaine. He laundered the proceeds through clothing companies in Los Angeles, prosecutors said.
Las Vegas-style slot machines are illegal in California outside of Native American casinos.