Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Multi-county "8-liner" operation
Waco – The Cameron Park Zoological Gardens are situated on 52 acres of rambling vines and scrubby woods just uphill from the Pecan Bottoms on the banks of the Brazos River.
Mornings resound with the sound of white-handed gibbons hooting and hollering to defend their territory beside a couple of waterfalls on a pond beside a cave where they spend their days swinging through a series of ropes and tree branches.
The disappearing species is native to Burma, Thailand and Malaysia. They swing through foliage, taking 10-foot leaps and walking on tree branches as if they are tight ropes, balancing with their long arms. Males rarely grow to be more than 20 pounds; females are substantially smaller. They drink by licking the water from their white-skinned hands.
The zoo is beautiful, filled with rare species such as the American bald eagle, rhinos, tiny dik dik antelope, and elephants.
Everything has a price tag, it seems, and everything is marked by a plaque to let visitors know who paid for it. For instance, an attractive waterfall that spills into the little pond where the centerpiece exhibit of white-handed gibbons lives says it was donated by the Waco Realtors Association.
There is an item for you. Area law enforcement administrators to this day talk about the slick deals a seasoned real estate operator made to hang on to his assets that were in danger of forfeiture when they were the subject of an illegal gambling investigation. The fact that he used the zoo as a bargaining chip is a source of wonder to these hardboiled detectors of crime.
Real Estate financier Jim Hawkins and his wife Nell are “Visionary” contributors to the zoo, having devoted a million-plus dollars to its design and upkeep. There are various grades of benefactors, including Guardians at $500,000; Sustainers at $250,000 an Conservators at $100,000.
Mr. Hawkins's Jhawk Enterprises is in the Conservator class of corporate contributors.
Mr. Hawkins is also the campaign treasurer for Chief Deputy Randy Plemons, a candidate for McLennan County Sheriff.
A former principal of mortgage derivative securities packager First City Financial Corporation, Mr. Hawkins operates as Jhawk1.
A number of years ago, the family business took on marginal commercial properties at a couple of locations on Waco Drive in this city, developing them as illegal 8-liner gambling parlors that used the popular machinesto entice compulsive gamblers into games of chance against the odds of the machine coming up with a favorable combination of computer chip-generated numbers.
When the number of free games they won were totaled up, investigators learned in Falls, McLennan and Bosque Counties, they were paid off in cash.
Of course, that practice is illegal.
That's when law enforcement in those jurisdictions moved in to confiscate the machines, initiate forfeiture proceedings on the properties, and otherwise encumber the assets.
In Waco, police were frustrated – stymied – by city management because Mr. Hawkins's contributions to the zoo were threatened by his coming indictment.
Word among the top brass in city and state law enforcement circles, Mr. Hawkins threatened to withdraw his financial support of the zoo.
Thus arranging leniency, his lawyers entered in countersuits as an intervenor in the forfeiture actions, praying for the relief of allowing him to take possession of the properties in which he was a lienholder, then sell them, along with the gambling machines, and thus recoup his losses.
Posted by The Legendary at 4:19 PM