HOUSTON - Harris County authorities said a door inside a bingo hall led to a stairwell leading to an underground bunker under the building on College Avenue in the City of South Houston in southeast Harris County.
The district attorney and the Sheriff’s Office said they seized 90 guns, body armor and ammunition following an 18-month gambling and organized crime investigation.
"Literally enough I'd say (they could have) started a small war in this area if they wanted to with all of these weapons and all of the ammunition they had in here. There was literally hundreds and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and all of these guns," Lt. Ruben Diaz, of the Harris County Sheriff's Office, said.
Prosecutors held the news conference in what was the Paradise Bingo Hall.
The county seized the piece of property and its contents Wednesday.
Twelve people were arrested and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony.
"From January 2012 until we took them down, this group made over $15 million in transactions from their gambling business," District Attorney Devon Anderson said.
Five of the accused appeared before a judge Friday for an illegal business they were accused of operating for four and a half years.
“In this one location here, we found several safes and tens of thousands of dollars. And some of the safes were difficult to find. We found hidden rooms and a bunker," Anderson said.
Prosecutors said they worked with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
"It's because it's a cash business. First of all, the machines are not regulated, so they can be changed by the owners to rip off every customer that brings their hard-earned money in there to spend. But secondly, they are a target for hijackers. We have many aggravated robberies and I've seen many capital murders in and around game rooms," Anderson said.
She said the county has several other game rooms on their radar, and that her office is targeting owners instead of just those who work there.