LAPD busts downtown shell game ring
By the time the victim chooses a shell, the dealer's sleight of hand already has removed the object. The shell game rings that have been operating downtown also tend to attract gang members, Vernon said.
As in past cases, the latest scheme drew local gang members who began robbing unsuspecting players, sometimes assaulting them or knocking them to the ground. Those arrested included the alleged ringleader, identified as 42-year-old Juan Arroyo.
The "tossers" who manipulated the shells included Santana Valencia, 67, and Adrian Sanchez, 42, Vernon said. All those arrested were Mexican nationals.
The last big arrests involving street gambling was in January, when at least 10 people were arrested in connection with a ring that operated on Los Angeles Street between 4th and 6th streets.
Shell games and three-card monte, a similar scam that uses cards instead of shells, have long been a problem on Broadway, which draws thousands of shoppers a day. More recently, police have seen such activity migrate east toward Los Angeles Street.
The difficulty with such street gambling is that police have to catch suspects in the act. Those involved can break down their games and be gone in seconds, and they often use lookouts who alert them when police are around.
These activities often go unreported because some business owners accepted kickbacks or rent from gamers to set up near their establishments, Vernon said.
-- Andrew Blankstein