Created on 05-02-2014
_ People send me stuff all the time and I love this one: “2011 and Bingos are still on site in the Fairview Gun Club” _
By Rob Wheary (Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published: July 22, 2011
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COAL TOWNSHIP - A township organization and its 78-year-old president face charges related to gambling and liquor violations following an undercover investigation by the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE).
Fairview Gun Club, 4000 W. State St., and James R. Williams, 439 W. Gowen St., are each charged with the unlawful use of illegal gambling devices and two counts each of unlawful acts relative to malt or brewed beverages and licensees, one count for selling beer consumed at the club and another count for selling beer in a takeout fashion.
The gambling devices charge is identified in court documents as a first-degree misdemeanor; the other two counts are ungraded misdemeanors. If convicted, Williams could face a fine of $5,000 and up to two years in jail, while the club could also be fined $5,000 and face sanctions that include fines of $2 per fluid ounce of the confiscated beer, which included 10 partial kegs, 163 bottles and 692 cans. Not counting the kegs and assuming the cans and bottles were 12 ounces, the fine would be $20,520.
LCE officer Scott D. Berdine reported in court documents that he visited the club in a undercover manner; he did not explain how he was able to visit the private club by himself, and an attempt to reach LCE Thursday for clarification was unsuccessful. Berdine said he found five individuals inside. Four of them were playing poker for money and the fifth person was seated playing a video slot machine, with two "six-card" bingo gambling pinball machines next to it. After Berdine entered, he said he was approached by one of the poker players, who told him he was the club president, according to his report. That person was later identified as Williams because his name was listed on a white board inside the bar, Berdine said. The board also had the names of winners of daily small games of chance drawings, but no license was posted at the premises, according to Berdine.
The officer said he sat at the bar and noticed a tap system with five types of beer available, glasses and two stand-up coolers filled with canned and bottled beer, along with an open table drawer with money in it. On the bar was a table-top video slot machine. Two empty kegs were behind the bar, he reported. Another person entered the club and went behind the bar, taking eight cans of beer out of the cooler, putting them into a tote bag and then placing a $10 bill in an open cash drawer. The patron told the officer the prices, and knew them because he often bartends at the club on the weekend.
'Careful' about patrons
Williams then walked behind the bar and told Berdine the same prices. The president then said the club had about 1,000 members but that they had to be careful who they let in as they now had illegal gambling devices. He also told the officer that he had been a member of the club for approximately 50 years, and that, in 1980, when he was president before, the club was busted by the Liquor Control Board and he had to go to Harrisburg for a court hearing. He also said he had recently taken over as president.
Berdine purchased two cans of beer from the bar, as Williams showed three video cameras recording the activities inside. After a total of one hour inside, Berdine left the gun club. He said he returned a week later, entering the same way as before. This time, there were 20 individuals inside, most of which had either cans of beer or mugs containing what appeared to be draft beer. Two patrons were seen playing one of the bingo machines. The officer sat at the bar and saw another person order two cans of beer. The bartender retrieved the cans and was given money for them. After witnessing the transaction, Berdine left.
Consent to search
On June 15, another officer met with Williams at his home, and he told police about the club's operation, selling beer and having the gambling devices, according to the LCE. Williams consented to a search of the club, where he showed police the "knock-off" methods for the devices, Berdine reported. After the search, officers seized two video gambling devices, a six-card gambling device, the kegs, bottles and cans of beer, $966 in currency and miscellaneous documents.
The charges were filed with Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III, Shamokin. A woman who answered the phone at Williams' home Thursday evening said he had no comment at this time.