By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The NYPD’s Vice Enforcement Division busted a small gambling operation above the Journelle lingerie store at 3 East 17th Street on August 25 at 10 p.m. After getting a New York County search warrant, police arrested Rafael Lugo, 42, Sergio Valentin, 46, and Jin Feng, 35, for promoting gambling.
Police said that there were at least 15 people sitting at three different poker tables on the second floor of the building, all playing games of Texas Hold ‘Em with poker chips on the tables.
Valentin allegedly told police that he had been running the location for about three months under the business name “Admire Ads” and told them that the rate he charges of $10 per hand is one of the lowest in the city. Police also recovered $2,040 in cash from Valentin’s pocket.
Feng was sitting at one of the tables with at least eight other people and allegedly told police that he was the dealer. According to the criminal complaint from the District Attorney’s office, Feng had been working at the location for about three months, collecting $10 per hand for the house and placing the money he collected in a tray.
Police said that Lugo was sitting at one of the tables with five other people and allegedly said that he had been working as a “floor guy” at the location for the last couple months.
He was making $200 per month while distributing poker chips to the players, the District Attorney’s office said. Police said that Lugo also had a jar of marijuana in his backpack and he was charged with possession of marijuana.
An employee at Journelle who didn’t want to give her name but has been working at the store for about two months said that she and other employees occasionally saw “shady dudes in nice suits” waiting to be let into the building’s second floor during the afternoon and evening hours. Another thing she noticed was an unusual odor.
“We could smell weed inside the store,” she said.