Casual backyard volleyball tournaments throughout Milford have been used to disguise illegal gambling activities, according to local law enforcement. As a result, police officers arrested two individuals with connection to the “backyard casino” scheme, as they call it. Law enforcement authorities believe that other gambling activities operate under the same disguise in town.
Deputy Police Chief Robert Tusino could not hide his astonishment at how these individuals used volleyball tournaments to disguise gambling activities. He explained that these events, often disguised as casual gatherings among friends, were significant gambling operations.
Last Saturday, a search warrant was executed at 21 Franklin St. During the raid, the police found people playing volleyball but also discovered illegal table gambling, as well as unauthorized sale of alcohol and cigarettes. There were also concession stands, outdoor cooking facilities, and illicit wiring. During the raid, police confiscated nearly $10k in cash. Tusino said that the illegal gambling operations had been taking place in residential areas in backyards.
The town’s Select Board took action about four months ago in response to complaints about gambling operations. A task force comprised of the Police Department, Building Department, and Health Department was established to initiate a thorough investigation. Paul Mazzuchelli, Chair of the Select Board, said that such illegal gambling operations might have taken place for years. Some properties where these activities were held had transformed their backyards into parking lots. He added that parties usually start on Friday evening and continue through Sunday night.
The Illegal Gambling Operations Disturb Residents and Call for Immediate Action
Complaints from neighbors included loud noise and stadium-like lights. Mazzuchelli explained that these gatherings had too many cars, loud music, and bright lights. He added that law enforcement authorities received many complaints from residents, looking for relief from the ongoing parties. Investigators used undercover operations and drone surveillance to discover the illegal gambling activities. According to Tusino, hundreds of thousands of dollars were generated annually from these operations, with undercover officers having witnessed money exchanges firsthand.
The raid from last Saturday resulted in the arrest of Luis Loja-Caguana, the owner of the property. He was charged with operating betting activities, keeping a disorderly home, and having a house of gaming. Zoila Castro was also arrested on charges of selling beer at the location. The two suspects are scheduled to appear in Milford District Court this Friday.
But this is not the first time Loja-Caguana has been linked to huge parties. In 2020, the 43-year-old man was fined $1,500 by the Board of Health for hosting parties of over 200 people and neglecting the Covid-19 restrictions. Tusino said that Loja-Caguana and Castro may face additional charges from other law enforcement agencies. As the investigation continues, more individuals are expected to face charges.
Mazzuchelli said that these issues must be addressed as soon as possible because they affect the quality of life in the area. He reiterated that the illegal gambling activities had been disturbing residents for a long and called for immediate action.