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Gamblers Played the Ponies in Brooklyn Grocery Store's Basement, Police Say

By James Fanelli | February 20, 2013 6:52am

PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — Call it Off-Off-Track Betting.

Police said a Brooklyn basement served as an illegal gambling den last year, allowing bettors to place wagers on horse racing. Now the city wants the basement locked up for a year and is trying to slap hefty fines on its owners, according to a complaint filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

On July 21, cops raided the illicit operation that worked out of the basement of Les Cayes on Nostrand Avenue, a Prospect-Lefferts Gardens grocery store, the complaint says. Police arrested one individual and seized gambling gear, betting slips tally sheets and cash, according to the complaint. The individual was not identified in the documents.

Three days before the raid, investigators sent in a confidential informant, who placed a $20 horse-racing bet and received a yellow betting slip receipt, records show. On July 19, a confidential informant again played the ponies in the basement and received a receipt for it.

The NYPD filed the complaint on Feb. 7, declaring the basement a public nuisance and seeking a judgment to shutter it for a year. The complaint also asks a judge to penalize the grocery store's owners, Jean and Gladys Charleus, $1,000 each for every day the place remained a gambling parlor.

The Charleuses' son, Joseph Wilfred, showed DNAinfo.com New York the basement, which had foldable tables, a flat-screen TV mounted to a wall, a Haitian flag and a walk-in refrigerator that the grocery store used.

Wilfred denied that anything illegal ever occurred in the basement. He said cops raided the basement because a group of rowdy men used to play domino games and cards, and that the neighbors, including three nearby churches, complained.

"They were playing cards and dominoes, but the problem was people were always fighting," Wilfred said. "The people complained at night."

Legal Off-Track Betting parlors closed in the city two years ago when the their operator went bankrupt. Nearly 1,000 workers lost jobs when they shuttered.

Plans to bring back OTB sites have been unsuccessful.