State agents take down Tampa illegal gambling operation

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Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) arrested four people Friday night in connection with a gambling operation. Agents say two separate business locations were being used for the illegal placing of bets on sporting events.

Luis Eduardo Martinez, 29, of Tampa was charged with bookmaking, maintaining a gambling establishment and money laundering at his business Botanica San Lazaro, located in a one-story office complex at 1419 West Waters Ave., Tampa. A second business, Santa Barbara Botanica, 7460 Palm River Road, Tampa, was also used for illegal gambling, agents said. 

During an investigation, FDLE Agents, with assistance from the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, found Botanica San Lazaro was established as a merchandise business for retail sales but was instead used as an illegal gambling operation with no retail sales.

Agents say, Martinez provided customers with "pick sheets" listing sports games and the point spread for each team. After a customer placed a bet, Martinez would then give a wager slip, showing a percentage of the potential winnings would be deducted for a "fee" on behalf of the gambling house.

According to FDLE, Cesar Reynaldo Matos Montas, 28, Ada Rivera, 57, of Tampa and Franciso Marte, 39, of West Palm Beach were also arrested in connection with the illegal operation.  Officials said, as a result of the search warrants, money, along with wager and betting slips, marijuana, documents and multiple computers, were seized. In addition, agents also said a semiautomatic firearm was seized at Botanica San Lazaro.

The case will be prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney, 13th Judicial Circuit.