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Mobtown Beat

Feds Charge Nick's Amusements for Laundering Gambling Proceeds

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland has charged Nick’s Amusements, a company whose amusement devices are placed in bars and other businesses in the Baltimore area, with money laundering in connection with illegal gambling. The one-count criminal information, filed in U.S. District Court on Oct. 27, states that “on or about December 15, 2006,” the company knowingly transferred $35,000 “in criminally derived property” from one Bank of America account to another, and that the proceeds were derived from “conducting an illegal gambling business.”

The criminal charge is the latest development in federal law enforcers’ probe of Nick’s, which first was revealed publicly in January 2009, when agents raided several locations associated with the business and seized many of the company’s assets. The raids were followed by a forfeiture filing in which the government sought to keep the seized assets, including 17 pieces of real estate and large sums of money taken from bank accounts. In July, that matter was settled (see PDF below); the government kept $1 million and returned the real estate and $237,162.69.

Nick’s Amusements is headed by politically prominent businessman John Zorzit, and, court documents show, had on its payroll the brother of Baltimore County Councilmember John Olszewski Sr. (D-7th District). Zorzit’s lawyer in the forfeiture case, Dale Kelberman, did not immediately return a call for comment about the criminal charge against the company.

In a 2006 Abell Foundation report about illegal video gambling in the Baltimore area, author Joan Jacobson found that Nick’s Amusements had 193 machines in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Jacobson’s report concluded that machine operators were underreporting their income by more than $63 million a year.

When a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang’s activities resulted in a 2009 indictment, City Paper found that records seized during the Nick’s Amusements raids revealed that Zorzit was the landlord of a bar operated by one of the BGF defendants, Tomeka Harris, who has since pleaded guilty in the BGF case and in a separate bank-fraud conspiracy.

Nick's Amusements Forfeiture

Nick's Amusements Money Laundering Information

Nick's Amusements Settlement Agreement

Nick's Amusements Warrant

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