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Two fined in illegal sports betting operation

Defendants given chance to keep felony off records

The Maui News

WAILUKU — Fines were ordered for two people sentenced earlier this month for participating in an illegal sports betting operation.

Beverly Lonzaga, 66, of Paia and Valrick Uechi, 60, of Wailuku were given a chance to keep a felony conviction off their records if they comply with court requirements for the next four years.

The two were among 23 people charged in connection with the bookmaking operation from Oct. 3 to Dec. 21, 2015. Cash and gambling records were seized in the investigation, which involved the use of wiretaps, according to police.

Lonzaga and Uechi each had pleaded no contest to first-degree promoting of gambling, with other charges dismissed in exchange for their pleas.

“I really want to impress upon the defendants, irrespective of how we view these crimes, it is a crime because the Legislature says it is a crime,” 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said in sentencing Lonzaga on July 11. “We have to enforce the law.”

She was ordered to pay a fine of $1,780, which Cahill said equaled one month’s pension and Social Security for her.

Lonzaga is retired and takes care of her grandchildren, said Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears.

Cahill said the investigation showed Lonzaga placed bets totaling $5,810 and she asked for court permission to go to Las Vegas twice while her case was pending.

Sears said Lonzaga has family members in Las Vegas. “Gambling isn’t the only reason to go to Las Vegas,” she said.

“It can be one reason,” Cahill said. “And given the nature of these offenses, the index of suspicion is raised in one’s mind.”

He said wiretaps indicated Lonzaga placed one bet over the phone while telling the caller she was going to Las Vegas in a few days.

“Why couldn’t it just wait till you got on the plane?” Cahill said. “It just makes no sense. Maybe they’re giving you better odds. In three days, you could have done away with most of these problems.”

At his sentencing July 9, Uechi was ordered to pay a $1,250 fine.

His attorney, Al Albrechtson, said Uechi was a “minor player” in the operation.

Both Uechi and Lonzaga were ordered to attend Gamblers Anonymous classes.

One other defendant has been sentenced in the case.

Cases are pending against the others.