One cited in Merced on suspected gambling violations

Merced police cited a Los Angeles man Thursday on a misdemeanor gambling charge in connection with several suspected illegal gaming machines inside a small grocery store on West 13th Street.

Yifrach Gal, 27, was cited and released just before 11 a.m. after a police officer spotted several machines at El Porvenir at 864 W. 13th St., police said in a news release.

The case will be referred to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office for review.

Capt. Tom Trindad said the owners of the store are not believed to be involved with illegal gambling. “It appears he (Gal) was just paying them rent to house the machines,” he said.

Efforts to reach store owners were not successful.

Merced police were searching for another man in an unrelated case when they discovered the machines.

Trindad said police believe Gal may have other machines around the state and possibly other businesses in the Merced area. “He may have been traveling up and down the state collecting the money,” Trindad said.

Police said the machines will likely be destroyed after 30 days, unless Gal lodges a formal protest.

“Unfortunately, these types of machines are a problem all over the state,” Trindad said. “Gambling brings its own issues to an area, and these things hurt other legal operations.”

Those operations include California Indian casinos, police said.

Police officers are asking anyone with any information regarding this incident or other possible illegal gaming operations to contact Detective Paul Johnson at (209) 388-7742, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to the Police Department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “ComVIP” as the “keyword” in the text message.