MIDWOOD — The owner of a longtime bingo hall with a graying customer base has been operating an illegal gambling ring worth millions of dollars and plans to abscond to Costa Rica in the near future, Brooklyn prosecutors say.
Adam Sandler, the owner of Nostrand Bingo Hall in Midwood, his 26-year-old daughter and 13 associates are the subject of a criminal investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office into an illegal gambling racket being run out of the hall.
No one has been arrested so far, but earlier this month prosecutors filed court papers in Brooklyn Supreme Court asking a judge to freeze Sandler’s assets, including the bingo hall, residential properties in Long Island and upstate New York and a 2006 Mercedes Benz and 2006 Audi.
The prosecutors also asked the judge to freeze Sandler’s bank accounts as well as accounts and properties held by his daughter, Marissa Sandler, and the 13 associates.
In all, prosecutors asked that more than $7.2 million in assets be frozen while the investigation continues, according to the filing.
In the court papers, prosecutors say Adam Sandler, 52, who has no relation to the comic actor with the same name, used the legitimately licensed bingo hall to mask the illegal gambling operation. Prosecutors say that since they began their probe the operation has raked in at least $4.1 million in criminal proceeds.
Prosecutors refer to Sandler, his daughter and the associates as criminal defendants in the court filing and say they could face felony charges ranging from money laundering to criminal possession to promoting gambling.
“In essence, these crimes are being committed by an enterprise … that has wholly corrupted the legal process by which legalized bingo may be conducted in New York State by licensed charitable organizations,” John Genovese, a prosecutor in the DA’s asset forfeiture and crimes against revenue bureau, said in the court filing.
Bingo halls are a dying breed in the city. Only seven licensed halls, including Nostrand, still operate in the five boroughs, according to the state Gaming Commission. In 2009 there were 15.
Sandler’s bingo hall is in a windowless brick building on a commercial strip of Nostrand Avenue. The exterior has signs saying “Bingo, Bingo, Bingo." The New York Times profiled Sandler's hall in a 2010 requiem on vanishing bingo parlors.
The Times article came a few months after state regulators revoked the license of a Jackson Heights bingo hall after Queens prosecutors charged three operators with stealing $830,000 in bingo proceeds.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the current investigation.
The court papers do not describe in detail what kind of alleged illegal gambling has taken place at the Nostrand Hall. However, state law requires bingo hall operators to run the games for charitable purposes. Generally, a charity will rent the space from the hall owner and collect the proceeds.
The Times article mentions Joe Torre East Highway Little League as one of the charities that rents Nostrand Bingo Hall.
Joseph Arena, who runs the little league, is named as one of the criminal defendants in the court filing. Prosecutors also ask in the court papers that a judge freeze bank accounts connected to the little league.
Arena, 49, declined to comment.
“It’s got nothing to do with us,” he said of his organization’s role in the investigation.
The court filing said that wiretaps caught Sandler talking about two stolen televisions worth $4,000 each. The criminal probe also revealed Sandler’s plan of closing down the operation, according to the court filing.
“The investigation has revealed that Sandler intends in the near future to wind down the illegal gambling scheme, liquidate the principal asset Nostrand Hall, and move to Costa Rica,” Genovese says in an affidavit.
Wiretaps also picked up that Sandler is close to selling the hall for more than $3.1 million, according to Genovese.
Sandler did not return calls for comment. His daughter, Marissa, hung up when asked about the criminal investigation.