Teddy Mitchell pleaded not guilty Monday to a federal indictment that accuses him of heading up an illegal gambling business that made $8.1 million before it ended.
Mitchell, whose wife was beaten to death in their Oklahoma City home in 2010, is accused of both hosting illegal poker games at his home and illegally taking bets from across the country on sporting events in an 81-count indictment.
“It's always been Teddy's position that what he was doing was not illegal,” said his defense attorney, Scott Adams. “He was a professional gambler.”
A federal grand jury in Oklahoma City last week indicted Mitchell, two of his sons, Dryden Mitchell and Nick Mitchell, a longtime friend, David Loveland, and five other men. The grand jury also indicted a Costa Rican company, Gortation Management.
The indictment was made public Monday.
“I hope the message is: ‘Don't do it,'” U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats told reporters at a news conference about the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Kumiega told a federal magistrate judge Monday that Teddy Mitchell, 57, was the “leader and organizer” of the business. Prosecutors want him to be detained until trial. They argue he is a flight risk.
A detention hearing for Teddy Mitchell is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. FBI agents arrested him Friday.
No one has been charged yet in the homicide of his wife, Julie Mitchell, 34.
She was found in a pool of blood in the closet of the master bedroom on Nov. 2, 2010. Oklahoma City police detectives still are investigating.
The indictment does not mention the death.
The investigation of the gambling operation began years before she was killed, according to Coats and Jim Finch, the FBI special agent in charge in Oklahoma.
“This was not an investigation of a couple of guys who just stopped by the house for a friendly small-stakes poker game,” Finch said. “This was a major, organized criminal investigation of illegally gambling and money laundering. ... We've been watching this group for a while.”
Defense attorney Billy Bock, who represents Dryden Mitchell, said it is obvious the FBI had stopped looking into accusations of gambling before the death.
“It didn't mean anything to anybody,” Bock said. “I think no one cared — victimless type of situation. Then Julie gets killed, and they kick the dust off this investigation.”
In the indictment, the grand jury alleges Teddy Mitchell organized both high-stakes and low-stakes poker games at his northwest Oklahoma City home.
His two sons, professionals from local casinos and other associates acted as dealers or had other roles in the poker games, according to the federal indictment.
His friend, Loveland, helped him greet the poker players and typically acted as a banker, exchanging poker chips for cash, according to the indictment. He took a “rake” — a percentage — from at least 400 poker hands each week, grand jurors allege.
“There were regular games multiple times a week at this residence,” Coats said. “People were betting tens of thousand of dollars each hand.”
Teddy Mitchell also operated as a traditional bookmaker, taking sports bets both in person and over the phone, according to the indictment.
Later, he and his oldest son, Dryden Mitchell, sent clients to a sports betting website, according to the indictment.
The website was run by the Costa Rican company, Gortation Management, which operates as a clearing house for bookies across the U.S., according to the indictment.
The illegal gambling business began in 2004 and continued until November 2010, according to the indictment.
Those charged in the indictment with involvement in the poker games are Teddy Mitchell; Dryden Mitchell, 32, of Oklahoma City; Nick Mitchell, 22, of Oklahoma City; Loveland, 64, of Oklahoma City; Jerry Wayne Gilchrist, 34, of Oklahoma City; Michael Lee McCullah, 35, of Ardmore, and Justin Edward Musgrove, 39, of Midwest City.
Those charged in the indictment with involvement in illegal Internet bookmaking are Teddy Mitchell, Dryden Mitchell, Loveland, Richard Allen Hancock, 67, of Yorba Linda, Calif., Gary John Gibb, 68, of Reno, Nev., and Gortation Management.
All nine men were in custody Monday, but most were to be released.
The grand jury alleges Teddy Mitchell and his co-conspirators used the illegal income from the gambling operation to purchase 24 pieces of property in Oklahoma County, as well as Cadillac Escalades and other vehicles. The real estate is valued at about $2 million, records show.
The federal government already has begun civil proceedings to take all those assets.