Wednesday, April 26, 2000
Legion officials sentenced
Judge fines two men, saying previous case was warning
By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON Gambling was so routine at the American Legion in Waynesville that members ignored the fact they were breaking the law, the lawyer for two post officials told a judge Tuesday as the veterans were sentenced on gambling charges.
It was like a Pavlovian response. Once you do that for that long, it becomes lawful in the eyes of the offenders, attorney William Kaufman said.
But Judge Neal Bronson said Paul Trimble, the post's chief operating officer, and Gary Van Nuys, its commander, should have known better because the state had raided the post less than two years before for the same thing.
Gentlemen, the warning was there. You should have known this was coming down the track, he said, after fining each man $1,000 and placing them on probation for two years.
Judge Bronson also levied a $7,500 fine against the Legion, which was well-known for charitable donations that helped build village parks and the high school stadium. Judge Bronson suspended $2,000 of the fine.
Mr. Trimble and Mr. Van Nuys, who left the courtroom without comment, each faced six months in jail after pleading guilty last month to misdemeanor gambling charges in a plea agreement that left the Legion virtually broke and its future in question.
Alcohol sales and gambling generated $890,000 in income for the Legion in the last six years, enabling it to contribute heavily toward community causes, said Mr. Kaufman, who is a member.
The sentencing hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court put an end to a criminal investigation that began in October, when state liquor officials received complaints that alcohol sales and gambling were continuing at the Legion hall on South Fourth Street. Alcohol cannot be sold because the village is dry.
State agents confiscated five video poker machines, tip tickets, and an assortment of liquor and beer in the most recent raid. They later seized about $310,000 in bank accounts and certificates of deposit, which investigators said came from illegal gambling and liquor sales.
Legion officials were forced to forfeit the money and its officers and trustees agreed to resign their seats as part of the plea bargain that spared Post 615, Mr. Trimble and Mr. Van Nuys from more serious racketeering charges.
But ramifications of the raid reach further than the Legion hall, Mr. Kaufman said. Because of the government seizure, the Legion might not be able to pay the remaining half of a $120,000 pledge toward the high school stadium, which opened last year.
Meanwhile, the new officers are trying to find a way to keep the Legion open including operating a bottle club that would allow members to bring in their own liquor, Mr. Kaufman said.
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