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'Operation Bishop' investigators seize $1 million during raid

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz

When voters elected District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, roughly 200 maquinitas were operating in Cameron County.

Today, just a handful remain.

Under Saenz, investigators have targeted eight-liner establishments where patrons play cheap slot-machines called maquinitas as part of what they call "Operation Bishop."

The District Attorney's Office seized more than $1 million during June, when Operation Bishop investigators dismantled a multi-county money laundering operation.

People arrested during the operation had links to illicit eight-liner establishments, according to the District Attorney's Office. Investigators also seized vehicles and high-end jewelry.

"Through the public's cooperation, we were advised that these individuals were moving on a daily basis large sums of money, through different parts of the county," Saenz said.

Investigators found about $600,000 inside a laundry basket in a Brownsville home. The remaining money had been stashed in various bank accounts.

"We were very much inclined to believe that this money was coming from Starr and Hidalgo counties," Saenz said. "After months of investigation and months of surveillance we moved in on June 9th."

Since Operation Bishop started in April 2013, investigators have arrested more than 60 people and seized more than 1,000 motherboards from maquinitas.

While Texas law allows amusement-only "gaming," paying players with cash or prizes worth more than $5 is illegal.

Investigators conducted their 50th raid last week on Kings Highway in Brownsville. They seized 35 motherboards and more than $1,000.

"Initially we were taking out the whole eight-liner machine," Saenz said. "That was very burdensome."

Now investigators simply remove the motherboards and leave the disabled machines behind.

The raids have sent a message, Saenz said.

"I think the message is very clear: That here in Cameron County they're not welcomed, and that here in Cameron County we will raid them and we will close them down," Saenz said.

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