McAllen police make illegal gambling arrests

A months-long investigation into an alleged McAllen illegal gambling operation that used two separate addresses has resulted in the arrests of an alleged gatekeeper and owner of the establishment.

McAllen police arrested 32-year-old Donna resident Mark Anthony Aguirre on Sunday and charged him with engaging in organized criminal activity and gambling promotion.

Police arrested 33-year-old McAllen resident Wendy Alicia Lopez on Oct. 13 and charged her with engaging in organized criminal activity, gambling promotion, keeping a gambling place and possession of gambling device/paraphernalia/equipment.

Both suspects are free on bonds.

McAllen police began investigating the group, which includes one other person who doesn’t appear to have been yet arrested, according to jail records, in March after receiving numerous Crime Stopper tips regarding alleged illegal gambling in the 3200 block of North 38th Street.

The information provided identified a Dora Lopez, also known as “la wera,” as the owner and operator of the illegal gambling operation.

Then, on Sept. 10, police say they identified Lopez, who was using aliases, according to the probable cause affidavit.

The next day, on Sept. 11, an investigator received more information “regarding the telephone number used to enter the gambling establishment, method that patrons used to enter the establishment, times the business opens and closes and the aliases used by Ms. Lopez aka (la wera or Dora),” the probable cause affidavit states.

An investigator then drove to 3901 West Business 83 and observed several vehicles approaching the wooden gate at the location that was controlled by a man giving access to vehicles, police say.

As the surveillance continued between Sept. 14 and 19, the investigator says in the affidavit that authorities witnessed activity consistent with illegal gambling.

On Sept. 19, at 7:25 p.m., McAllen police received another anonymous call about illegal gambling and this time patrol officers responded and observed slot machines, police say.

“Patrol Officers issued over 20 citations to patrons for the offense of ‘gambling’ but no arrest was made on the employees or owner,” the affidavit states.

Police had detained both Lopez and Aguirre at the scene.

“Mr. Aguirre was detained but was later released with charges pending. It was later learned that the McAllen Police Department received a tip stating the owner of the gambling location was handcuffed and released by Police at the scene,” the affidavit states.

Witnesses identified Lopez as a partner operating the illegal gambling establishment, police say.

Witness statements and investigative corroboration identified the person who doesn’t appear to have yet been arrested as an employee at the location who was “the person you call when you want the gambling machine to pay the patron out when they win money.”

“Furthermore, witnesses corroborated that the illegal gambling facility at 3235 N. 38th St. was the same illegal gambling operation at 3901 Business 83 in McAllen,” the affidavit states.