Illegal gambling, prostitution alleged after police raid on 'birthday party' Officers describe traveling operation of gaming, sex shows

March 26, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF Staff writer Joe Mathews contributed to this article.

It was supposed to be an afternoon birthday party for "Jim Jones." Instead, it turned out to be a traveling sex show and gambling bonanza attracting nearly 100 men -- and two dozen Baltimore police officers who shut the act down.

Two undercover officers obtained $60 tickets, infiltrated the gathering at Councill's Restaurant and Catering on Patapsco Avenue and said they spent four hours documenting illegal gaming and prostitution.

Police raided the hall about 4 p.m. Saturday and let the patrons go home but identified 25 workers and the lead promoter.

Criminal charges ahead

No arrests were made, but police said they are trying to sort out the organizational structure and will file criminal charges after consulting with prosecutors.

"It's a quality-of-life issue for the community," said Southern District Lt. Barry Baker. "We don't want it here."

Officials at Councill's refused to comment about the raid but said no employees were working the party. "It's very sad what's happened," said one restaurant worker who asked not to be named. "This is a nice place."

Lieutenant Baker said up to six catering employees were on hand for the affair, but they apparently did not know ahead of time what sort of party was planned.

Police said they are investigating why the workers did not notify authorities after the event started.

"[The organizers] have had other parties of this kind," said Maj. Kathleen T. Patek, commander of the Southern District. "They move from county to county or into the city so law enforcement has a tough time tracking them down."

Wayne Resnick, an owner at Martin's Caterers, one of the region's largest, said managers should always watch over events but that he has never encountered an incident similar to what happened at Councill's.

"If those things start to happen, you have to shut it down," he said.

The tickets distributed for the event were simple: "You are cordially invited to attend a surprise birthday party for Jim Jones," they read, recommending that patrons reserve their place and to "please be prompt."

But a second part of the ticket -- given to patrons and not, police say, to the catering hall -- mentions "trouble we had at the last affair" and lists 13 rules for attendance.

'The right people'

Ticket holders are forbidden from mentioning the party to strangers, tickets are not sold at the door, and no one is admitted after 2 p.m. Tickets are provided only after the receipt of money, so that "all tickets are sold to the right people." The ticket adds: "Type of affair: same as the others."

Investigators are not sure how patrons obtained tickets, but Lieutenant Baker likened it to a chain letter distributed to a select but expanding group of people.

Police officers were posted outside the catering hall on Patapsco Avenue and secretly videotaped people going in. Most were young to middle-aged men, dressed casually. Police said 10 prostitutes were hired from Washington and Virginia.

Inside, police said, the customers gambled at two gaming wheels and watched women perform sex acts on tabletops.

The disc jockey announced $5 tickets for men to participate in sex acts, and takers lined up at the men's bathroom door and took turns with women inside for another $50, police said.

Lieutenant Baker said the promoter -- whom he declined to identify because the person has not been charged -- did not have a gambling permit, which can be obtained for a single event run by nonprofit organizations.

Two dozen police officers streamed in through the front doors about 4 p.m. and seized the gaming equipment and $7,000, mostly in $1 bills.

Lieutenant Baker said such operations are able to set up business and dismantle quickly, making them difficult to catch.

"These are very secretive," he said. "This is why it's so hard for law enforcement. They are up so quick and down in four hours -- if you don't know ahead of time, you can't do anything about it."

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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