Battling back after a year in which they were challenged with closure of their businesses and even loss of their freedom, two Houston poker clubs have filed lawsuits against the Harris County District Attorney who brought charges against them. These charges are civil in nature and the two clubs have indicated that there will be financial restitution sought, albeit it is unknown how much money that will be.
Post Oak, Prime Social Joining Forces
In a suit filed last week in Houston, the ownership behind the two poker clubs, the Post Oak Poker Club and Prime Social Poker Club, have accused Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of malicious prosecution, false arrest, defamation and infliction of emotional distress. The co-owners of the Post Oak Poker Club – Daniel Kebort, William Heur, Sergio Cabreba and Alan Chodrow – joined with Stephen Farshid of Prime Social in filing the paperwork. While the monetary amount in judgment is not mentioned, both rooms were shut down for an extended period last year.
The timing of the current lawsuit isn’t opportune for Ogg. The current District Attorney is on the ballot in Harris County, defending her seat this November against Republican Mary Nan Huffman. Ogg’s work as the chief felony prosecutor for the DA’s Office prior to her being elected in 2016 and her work as the executive director of the Houston Crime Stoppers Program (from 1999 to 2006) might have bought her some good will, but the charges against her – and the conduct of those in her employ – might be something that the voters look at come November.
Houston Case a Debacle from the Start
The origin of the Houston situation, which has been a debacle from the start, dates back almost a year ago. In a daring midday raid, Houston law enforcement entered the Prime Social Poker Club and arrested the ownership and management of the club for illegal gambling, money laundering and various “organized crime” activities, according to Ogg. This was done in coordination between Ogg and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who commented at the time “We can’t allow illegal gambling to go on.”
The raid extended to Post Oak Social Club later that same afternoon, with ownership and management arrested on the same charges. But, as those being charged fought the case, another story began to emerge. Instead of those involved with the poker rooms being the lawbreakers, it was those entrusted with enforcing the law who may have been the ones “bending the laws” in their favor.
It was alleged – and, eventually, proven true – that one of the people in Ogg’s office had been working with the poker clubs. In their discussions Amir Mireskandari, a massive donor to Ogg’s political campaigns who was hired by Ogg to be a consultant to the DA’s office, was allegedly paid a sizeable amount of money by the two poker clubs to potentially write legislation to get the rooms licensed in Houston. Faced with such actions inside their own organization, Ogg was forced to drop all the charges against the two poker clubs because of “a conflict of interest.”
This wasn’t the end of the travails for the poker clubs, however. Ogg said she had forwarded their investigation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for further examination of money laundering by the businesses; to this date, however, the FBI has yet to take any further legal actions against either Post Oak or Prime Social.
Now it is the clubs’ turn to use the wheels of justice. Normally there is a 30-day period for someone to respond to a civil suit, even if it is an elected official, and Ogg’s response to this case will be very interesting. More than likely, a settlement will probably be worked out as Ogg doesn’t need the bad press during her reelection campaign.