The county appeals board is being asked to decide whether a group trying to buy a Brooklyn Park bingo parlor, which has been linked to money-laundering, has underworld connections.
That was the key issue that attorneys for the county Department of Inspections and Permits, the bingo hall and the purchasers laid out for the board in opening arguments last night.
Stephen B. Paskind, owner of Bingo World, and the partners of Arundel Amusements Inc., who want to purchase the business, have asked the board to approve the sale and transfer of Mr. Paskind's commercial bingo license.
The county denied the transfer in December after federal authorities identified Mr. Paskind as an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme concocted by organized crime figures to launder illegal gambling proceeds.
"I defy the county to come up with one scintilla of evidence" that Mr. Paskind or any organized crime figure would have any interest or control of the bingo hall once it was sold, said D. Christopher Ohly, attorney for Bingo World.
"If the county would just let this go through, we all will get what we want," Mr. Ohly said.
Deputy County Attorney David Plymyer agreed that the county cannot produce any written evidence that Mr. Paskind or organized crime figures would remain in control after the purchase.
"[But] you aren't going to see organized crime here carrying a fedora and a violin case," Mr. Plymyer said. But "when you smell smoke and you see smoke, you [board members] are within your jurisdiction to recognize that fire exists."
Mr. Plymyer said that in 1986 Mr. Paskind testified before the board that he owned 84 percent of Bingo World's stock. But he has since testified in federal court that four organized crime figures owned half of the operation and financed extensive renovations of the facility.
Four of five partners in Arundel Amusements, which has offered $4.2 million for the business, are members of a Baltimore law firm, which represented Mr. Paskind until 18 months ago when Arundel Amusements incorporated and began negotiating to purchase the business, Mr. Plymyer said. The fifth partner is Millersville developer Ernest J. "Jay" Litty.
County officials have been trying for three years to close the bingo parlor based on evidence in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that Mr. Paskind, who now lives in David, Fla., had ties to organized crime figures who used the business to launder profits from illegal gambling, loan sharking, robbery and other illegal enterprises.
In a Dec. 23 order denying the license transfer, permits director Robert Dvorak cited Mr. Paskind's alleged ties to organized crime. The fact that he wants to sell the hall to a newly formed partnership that includes four of his former attorneys "destroys any public confidence" in the legitimacy of the continued operation, Mr. Dvorak said.
The appeals board hearing is to continue today at 2 p.m in the County Council chambers of the Arundel Center in Annapolis.