Illegal Poker Den Busted Above Union Square Lingerie Store


Illegal poker and high-end lingerie isn’t exactly a combination we see every day. But maybe there’s something to it, after an underground gambling club was busted in a room above a Journelle location in Union Square.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office says it broke up a gambling room that was operating three tables of Texas Hold ‘Em at 3 East 17th Street. (To be clear, Journelle was not involved. That would be very weird.)

According to a criminal complaint from the D.A., an NYPD vice squad obtained a search warrant for the address, and on August 25 raided the location, where they found about fifteen men sitting around poker tables. In the antiseptic, ultra-literal language of police statements, one of the officers “observed that there were playing cards and poker chips on top of each table.”

Three suspects were arrested: Jin Feng, 35, whom the complaint identifies as the dealer; Sergio Valentin, 46, who was “operating” the game; and Rafael Lugo, 42, who was the “floor guy,” like a casino pit boss, charged with monitoring play and making sure things are on the up-and-up. (We’re hoping, but cannot confirm, that the defendants were all chomping on big cigars and wearing semitransparent green visors and talking about “the fuzz” when apprehended.)

All three were charged with promoting gambling in the second degree. But things got a bit worse for Lugo, who was also nabbed with a jar of reefer. The officer was able to identify it based in part on “the odor emanating from the substance.”

They apparently weren’t the only ones who noticed that particular aroma, either. An employee at Journelle told the Town and Village blog, which originally reported the story, “we could smell weed inside the store.” During a follow-up call to Journelle, an employee who answered the phone told the Voice she was unaware of the goings-on upstairs, and then declined to comment further.

An official at the D.A.’s office commenting on background said Valentin, the alleged operator, pleaded guilty at his arraignment and was sentenced to time served. The cases against Feng and Lugo continue, and they’ll be back in court in mid-October.