More than a dozen criminal charges have been filed against people who ran two alleged illegal nightclubs and a casino operating underground in the Hollywood area, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
The underground businesses are located near “sensitive” areas including schools, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and a behavioral health center, City Attorney Mike Feuer said.
Violence, guns and drugs were reported at the locations, and Feuer said they were only made aware of them thanks to members of the community who came forward with information.
One of the clubs, located at 800 N. El Centro Ave. is in a residential neighborhood and 350 feet from an elementary school.
The Los Angeles Police Department began receiving complaints about the location in August. Upon inspection, officers saw “a large party with a cover charge, DJ’s playing loud music and alcohol sales,” officials said. The officers broke up the party, confiscated guns and arrested several people.
On Aug. 29, police responded to a shots-fired call at the location during another party. Witnesses reported hearing about 20 gunshots and a person was shot several times in the face and body, officials said. Police recovered a handgun, casings from two different handguns and found multiple bullet holes in the building next door.
Then in September, on two separate occasions, officers went to the scene and found additional parties. Again, they broke up the gathering and arrested those responsible, officials said. During one of those responses, police recovered two handguns and in another instance, they confiscated DJ equipment.
The owners, Rami Ben-Moshe, Jason Williams and Khani Rice, have been charged with 12 counts, including dispensing alcohol without a license, live music and dance hall without a permit and a noise violation, according to the city attorney’s office.
Ben-Moshe and Williams face up to five years in jail and $10,000 in penalties. Rice faces one year in jail and a $2,000 maximum penalty, officials said.
Another alleged underground club was identified at 6024 Santa Monica Blvd. in a shopping center next to the cemetery and about 500 feet from Hollywood Elementary School.
Police responded to the location and saw a party with security guards charging admission at the door. Officers broke up the party and arrested those responsible. They also found large quantities of alcohol and narcotics, according to the city attorney’s office.
Francesco Conte, the operator of the alleged underground club, was charged with four counts, including dispensing alcohol without a license, dance hall without a permit and a noise violation. He faces two years in jail and $4,000 maximum penalties.
Antonio Martinez, who lives near one of the underground clubs, told KTLA the operation would get going on Friday nights and last until 4 a.m.
Additionally, officials identified an alleged casino at a two-story commercial building at 5547 Santa Monica Blvd. The location has a market, swap meet and the space was apparently used as a Presbyterian church.
In August, police took a report from a person who said he was at an underground casino at the location when he was beaten and robbed by another patron. A week later, police sent an informant to the casino who was able to purchase meth, officials said.
A few weeks later, police served a search warrant and found gambling equipment, ammunition and large quantities of cannabis, officials said. They arrested several people who were allegedly wanted on outstanding warrants and parole violations. Officers even identified the person responsible for the illegal operation, who admitted the space was indeed being used as a casino.
Brandon Chang was charged with one count of illegal use of land. He faces six months in jail and $1,000 in penalties.
“No Angeleno should be forced to contend with a noisy, unlicensed nightclub right next door,” Feuer said. “We allege that the people behind these clubs have put their customers and people in the surrounding community at risk.”