The Village Club Card Room, located in Chula Vista, was one of two establishments raided by the FBI on October 29. In addition to the card rooms, 10News reported that a federal search warrant was executed for a La Jolla residence. According to the report, investigators took away files and computers.
The Village Club Card Room, on 429 Broadway, is the only licensed gambling establishment in Chula Vista; it offers games such as poker and blackjack as well as food and alcohol.
In 2012, the card room acquired two properties on Bay Boulevard in ChulaVista. According to a San Diego Transcript article, the interior contract will go to Chula Vista general contractor Kevin O 'Neill.
Fox 5News reported in August that the Village Club will move from its 5000-square-foot location on Broadway to an 18,000-square-foot space that will have a card room, bar, and full restaurant. The estimated $3.7 million makeover and construction is supposed to begin in 2015.
Village Club owner Harvey Souza is known locally for his generous campaign donations. Chula Vista mayor Cheryl Cox previously worked as a consultant for Souza and the card room. In 1998, she appeared before the city council as Souza’s consultant to support his request to expand his facility.
There was considerable opposition to the expansion at the council meeting, including an appearance by Paul Pfingst, who was the San Diego district attorney at the time.
Pfingst argued, “One of the capabilities is because there is a large volume of dollars running through the same person, the opportunity for money laundering and other types of things are more present.”
He also pointed to “undue influences that large scale gambling can have on elected officials.”
Cox, on the other hand, argued, “Mr. Souza is in this for his business and to perpetuate 53 years of solid ownership of a business that has been good for Chula Vista, and has not levied the kind of pressure upon its political figures that we might fear, should we be looking at institutions with 180-200 tables.”
When Cox first ran for mayor in 2006, the Union-Tribune carried a story about donations related to her campaign. The article states that the San Diego Lincoln Club, a pro-business political action group spent $50,872 “to help Republican Cheryl Cox in her campaign to unseat Mayor Steve Padilla, a Democrat…. The Club received major donations from people with Chula Vista ties....”
One of those “ties” was the Village Club, which gave $13,000.
In 2009, Harvey Souza came back to ask Cox — by then the mayor — and the city council for an expansion of the number of card tables and an increase in credit lines for the players. The item was unanimously approved.
FBI special agent Darrell Foxworth did not return phone calls or emails from the Reader. On October 29, he told the local NBC affiliate that the federal search warrants were in support of a pending investigation and that the issuance of the warrants is not proof of guilt or innocence.