Three Oklahoma City residents are accused of participating in illegal gambling on pigeon races at a downtown Oklahoma City hotel in 2010.
Karen Mae Clifton, Richard Wayne Mardis and James Orr Steele each were charged Monday in Oklahoma County District Court with two counts of conspiracy to violate the state's anti-commercial gambling act and commercial gambling.
The wagering allegedly took place during a convention hosted by the American Racing Pigeon Union between Nov. 10-14, 2010, court papers state.
Investigators working for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals attended the convention and reported their findings, which included audio and video recordings, to Oklahoma City police.
Wagers were placed and money received for Belgian pools (10-1 payout); board pools (pari-mutuel-style wagering); and winner-take-all bets.
The racing pigeon union kept 15 percent of all money wagered, bet or pooled before any winnings were paid to racing participants, prosecutors said in court papers.
Clifton, 51, was listed in a probable cause affidavit as the union's executive director.
She told police she “was involved in securing the rooms, arranging for vendors and for the hospitality side” of the convention, court papers state.
Clifton said one of the rooms, referred to as Mall 167, was used for pari-mutuel wagering on the animals, court papers state.
Mardis, 64, a union member, told police he managed the racing side of the convention, and said racers would pay “entry fees” in the room 167.
Mardis oversaw the distribution of winnings and made sure they were accurate, court papers state.
“Most of us (participants) do it (race) for fun and then we go to the conventions and we do it (bet) for entertainment; just like going to the casinos over there in southwest Louisiana,” Mardis told investigators, the affidavit states.
Steele, 62, told police he collected money for betting pools, the affidavit states.
A man who has not been charged told investigators from $5,000 to $10,000 was collected in the 30 to 45 minutes he assisted Steele, according to the affidavit.
Clifton, Mardis and Steele face up to 10 years in prison or a fine of $25,000 or both if convicted of commercial gambling.