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Illegal-Gambling Sentence

Centreville Man gets 3 years suspended for poker games.

In March, a Centreville man was convicted of running an illegal gambling operation out of his home. Friday morning in Fairfax County Circuit Court, he was given a three-year suspended sentence.

THE MAN is Bradley L. McLaughlin, 27, of 14623 Seasons Drive in the Bryarton community, off Stone Road. And now he and two members of his family have all been sentenced for their parts in the crime.

In January, his father, Dexter L. McLaughlin, 52, of Ellicott City, Md., pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of accessory to gambling activity. And in February, Bradley McLaughlin's wife, Jeanna M. Anderson, 26, did likewise. Both received 12-month, suspended sentences.

"I'm very sorry about the situation," McLaughlin told Judge Terrence Ney, prior to being sentenced Friday. "I'm sure you won't see me here again."

Ney then imposed the sentenced previously agreed upon by the defense and commonwealth attorneys. He also placed Bradley McLaughlin on two years probation and, now that McLaughlin's a convicted felon, he ordered a sample of his blood taken for DNA purposes.

In an Aug. 5, 2004 affidavit for a search warrant to seek evidence in the Centreville couple's house, police Det. David Baucom gave details of the illicit doings there. He wrote that "thousands of dollars" had been wagered in illegal poker games at Bradley McLaughlin and Jeanna Anderson's home.

It would have been no problem if they were just friendly games of cards. But because bets were placed, serious money changed hands — and the hosts got a cut — it was against the law. Wrote Baucom: "The poker games at 14623 Seasons Drive may sometimes last into the next day, and [the McLaughlins and Anderson] are compensated by the players for allowing them to play there."

POLICE CONDUCTED surveillance of the home over several months, gathering evidence for prosecution. Then, with search warrant in hand, on Aug. 5 at 10:54 p.m., they raided the place. Police seized poker tables, chips and cards, plus piles of cash from stashes throughout the townhouse.

They also arrested 23 people who were playing cards there at the time. All of them were charged with misdemeanor participating in gambling. And on Aug. 17, police charged the McLaughlins and Anderson with conducting an illegal gambling operation. Said police spokesman Bud Walker: "The people running it were clearing about $40,000 a month."

According to Baucom, "Players in the game keep their money in their pockets and wallets. The dealers also keep money used in the poker game in their pockets. There are two, 12-person poker tables in the basement and, when [they're] full, players wait in line to get a seat. On any given night, there are approximately 30 players in the basement."

On Feb. 22 in General District Court, Bradley McLaughlin's charge was amended to a lesser felony — meaning that the amount of dollars involved and the duration of the offense wouldn't be a part of his offense. That way, he faced less possible prison time. He pleaded guilty, March 29, in Circuit Court.

Friday, outside the courtroom, after his client was sentenced, defense attorney Bob Whitestone said the outcome was fair, except for the fact that Bradley McLaughlin was convicted of a felony. He also said there are some "victimless crimes" in Virginia.

Whitestone said the players were engaged in the popular game of Texas Hold 'Em poker — "which many consider to be a game of skill, as well as luck. A skilled player wins every time. In my personal opinion, it seems the law is outdated. Nobody was compelling the losers to play poker. They could have driven four hours to Atlantic City to play poker or an hour to Charles Town to play the slots."

"I think it's sad that Bradley is convicted of a felony because it's not an organized crime," continued Whitestone. "It's not evil, per se. He wasn't winning money from the game. He was taking a little from each pot — from the winners. The only people who paid were the winners, not the losers. He was providing an honest place to play."