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GAMBLING Tourney was for charity, Niles man says



Published: Tue, May 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



All of those charged appeared in municipal court Monday.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NEWTON FALLS -- Ryan O'Lear's gamble didn't pay off.

The 30-year-old Niles man said he was told last year by Police Chief Robert Carlson that he would not be permitted to hold Texas Hold'em tournaments in Newton Falls, so he didn't.

This year, he was contacted by a man who said he was with the Falls Knight Foundation and wanted to hold poker tournaments for the charity.

"I took a chance on this because I trusted what I was being told," O'Lear said. "I was told and shown papers that this was a charity. I was told all the money would go to charity. They asked me to run the games because I know poker."

O'Lear and Ed Arrich, with the Falls Knight Foundation, were arrested, along with 60 others, Saturday on gambling charges.

State and local law enforcement officials raided the poker game being held Saturday afternoon at St. Mary's Social Hall, 120 Maple Drive.

All of those charged appeared in municipal court Monday.

Pleas

O'Lear pleaded innocent to charges of operating a gambling house and gambling. Arrich, 57, of Newton Falls, pleaded innocent to the same charges plus a charge of possessing criminal tools. All the charges are misdemeanors.

O'Lear and Arrich are scheduled to return to court in June.

The 60 others were charged with a minor misdemeanor charge of public gaming. Most entered guilty pleas and were fined. A few, however, pleaded innocent and will return to court at a later date.

O'Lear said he volunteered his time and wasn't paid. He did say he sold poker chips to the foundation to be used in the events.

"We told Mr. O'Lear that the poker games are illegal gambling and can't be done," Carlson said. "He came back with Mr. Arrich who said he had a nonprofit charity, The Falls Knights Foundation. As far as we can tell it's a one-man charity. I'm being told by the Knights of Columbus here that it is not associated with their organization."

However, Arrich said the organization is the fund-raising arm of the Knights of Columbus and "110 percent legal." He added that the fund raiser was done to help pay for scholarships and other charitable work done by the Knights.

Officials with the Knights of Columbus could not be reached to comment.

Carlson said he worked with the Ohio Investigative Agency on the investigation for four months.

"As far as we can tell, we have seen no evidence of any of the money going to charity," Carlson said.

Carlson said nonprofit organizations are permitted to hold poker games, however, they must be held as part of a festival. He said the charity also must be in existence for at least two years before a poker game is held.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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