These days, the gambling industry and enigmatic news headlines seem to go hand in hand, but the latest reports out of New York are beyond bizarre. Last Saturday, November 15th, a raid was conducted on an illegal gambling house in Albany, New York. Among the 16 individuals arrested and charged with various crimes in relation to the incident was Mary Helen Morgan, a 90 year old African American woman alleged to be ring leader, in charge of running the illegal poker games and related gambling activities.
Police reports indicate that officers entered the home of Ms. Morgan at 1410 East 1st Avenue around 8:30pm that night to facilitate a search warrant. During the raid, authorities seized about $4,100 in cash, two vehicles, a trailer and ‘some lawn equipment’.
As the owner of the residence, Mary Helen Morgan was charged with numerous citations that included keeping a place of gambling, a disorderly house and the illegal sale of alcohol. For all intents and purposes, it would seem the elderly woman was running a small casino out of her Albany home, but the provision of poker games and alcohol weren’t the only suspected crimes going on.
According to Deputy Chief Mark Scott, the investigation began in September after neighbors complained of illegal activity in the home. “This operation was a result of a two month investigation into illegal activity at this residence which included illegal gambling, illegal alcohol sales, illegal tobacco sales, possession of cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana and spice.”
Illegal gambling houses and drug activities aren’t exactly rare, headline-worthy occurrences in New York, but Mary Helen Morgan’s age earned her a front page spotlight. Having been dubbed the ‘Poker Granny’ by media outlets, Morgan is officially the oldest person Dougherty County Jail as ever had the displeasure of incarcerating. Up until now, the oldest individual jailed in the county was 83 years of age. Officials confirmed that Morgan is not being held in general population.
“Whether it’s due to their advanced age or a physical handicap or anything that would cause them to be an additional concern,” explained Colonel John Ostrander, “we would administratively segregate them, and that’s the case with Ms. Morgan.”
Other individuals arrested that night include Gary Anderson Jr., Shunterria Brown, Michael Edwards, Cornelius Evans, Antonio Fletcher, Quinton Fletcher, Ronnie Gibson, Elizabeth Hicks, Reginald Hill, Rodriquez Laster, Larry Jester, Patrick Lyons, Michael Spurlin and Lillian Whitlock. Deputy Chief Scott said that the charges varied by person. “Those that had outstanding warrants were charged with their warrants and those that were actually participating in gambling when the officers arrived on scene were charged with gambling, and then of course those in possession of illegal drugs [were] charged with that.”
Greg Edwards, District Attorney for Dougherty County who will be handling the case from here, delivered a warning message to all others who may be involved in illegal poker and gambling activities. “All of our law enforcement agencies are working together to make sure these operations are carried out to intervene on these operations.”