Crime & Courts

2 Wichita cops, others indicted in sweeping gambling probe

Four more people – including two Wichita police officers – have been charged as part of a sweeping investigation of illegal gambling and public corruption dating to 2011.

The charges announced Thursday bring to six the number of people indicted.

Among the new allegations: The two officers and a gambling operator “tried to out an undercover investigator at a poker game,” according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office description of federal indictments released Thursday.

The three men are charged with obstructing a criminal investigation, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said in a statement.

The indictment identifies the two police officers as Bruce Mackey, 45, of Goddard, currently a Wichita officer, and Michael Zajkowski, 50, of Wichita, no longer a Wichita police officer. The third man charged is Brock Wedman, 48, of St. Marys. Wedman is identified as someone who ran an illegal gambling operation.

In a brief statement, the Wichita Police Department said two former employees were indicted but didn’t give their names.

A retired Highway Patrol trooper was also charged Thursday in connection with an illegal poker game in Wichita. He is accused of lying to the FBI.

The two police officers and the gambling operator are charged with one count each of obstructing law enforcement. Wedman also is charged with lying to the FBI.

The indictment accuses Wedman and an unindicted co-conspirator of operating a gambling enterprise and sponsoring an illegal poker game on Feb. 12, 2014, in Wichita.

“When Wedman began to suspect there was an undercover officer at the game, he wanted to know if the car the man was driving belonged to the city of Wichita,” the U.S. Attorney’s news release says.

Wedman and a co-conspirator asked Zajkowski and Mackey, who were Wichita police officers at the time, for help, it says.

“Zajkowski and Mackey made calls and sent texts, trying to use police resources to find out who owned the car,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The two officers gave Wedman “reason to believe an undercover officer was present and they confirmed his car was registered to the City of Wichita and in service to the Wichita Police Department,” the statement said.

When FBI agents interviewed Wedman in February 2017, “he falsely denied he gave the co-defendants the license plate number and VIN number of the car and asked them to find out who owned it,” the release said.

If convicted, the men could face up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

The Wichita Police Department, FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigated, the release said.

The indictment was filed on Oct. 11 and unsealed Thursday.

Former trooper charged

The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Thursday also announced another former law enforcement officer had been charged with lying to the FBI during an investigation into illegal gambling in Wichita.

Michael Frederiksen, 52, of Derby, a retired Highway Patrol trooper, was charged Thursday with two counts of making false statements to FBI investigators, according to a news release.

An affidavit filed with the charge against the former trooper tells how the investigation evolved: Since November 2011, federal and state investigators “have been conducting an investigation into an illegal gambling business with ties to public corruption in Wichita.”

“For years, there have been several business establishments throughout Wichita … that have been open to the public for patrons to participate in live poker games,” it says. “There have been several complaints made to law enforcement by individuals of the general public concerning these establishments. There have also been reports made to law enforcement indicating that individuals may conduct live, cash poker games which are not open to the public in these establishments and/or at other locations.”

The Wichita Police Department Vice Unit got information from a confidential source that a man known as "Smoke" was operating an illegal cash poker game. A member of the Wichita police undercover narcotics section “developed an unwitting informant,” B.W., who confirmed that the game was played at a loft in the Old Town bar district. The unwitting informant offered to bring the undercover agent into the game.

The Vice Unit started doing surveillance on a game played at 922 1/2 E. Douglas.

Regular surveillance identified regular players, the affidavit says.

Investigators used interviews, physical surveillance, confidential sources, cell phone location data and application records, interception of wire and electronic communications, consensual audio and video recordings and search warrants.

The techniques allowed investigators to see or learn of the business operating at more than five different places “and identified numerous individuals involved with this activity,” it says.

On Feb. 12, 2014, the undercover agent joined an illegal cash poker game at 922 1/2 E. Douglas. During the game, the agent saw Daven Flax, known as "Smoke," collecting cash in exchange for poker chips, joining the card game and giving cash to players at the end of the game, the affidavit says.

Flax then wrote down something in a notebook, it says.

As the players gambled, with multiple dealers, someone prepared and served food, a waitress served drinks and massaged players.

A security guard watched it all.

According to the undercover agent, the operation included “poker tables, a cabinet for valuables and chips, poker chips, video surveillance equipment, liquor, food, and everything necessary to accommodate an underground poker event.”

At one point, it says, the undercover agent was “summoned into a private room by Flax. “B.W. and Flax then spoke with (the undercover agent) about the fact that (the agent) was taking photos of the game on his cellular telephone. During this conversation, B.W. told (the agent) that ‘technically’ these games were illegal and that (the agent) was making other players nervous by taking photos. … Following this incident, the game was never seen at that location again.”

During the game, audio and video recordings were obtained. The recordings showed that Frederiksen, the trooper, was at the location for more than two hours and that he participated in one of the poker games.

In February 2016, the Wichita Police Department executed a search warrant at Nilla's Poker Room, 10001 E. Kellogg, #2.

Investigators interviewed a number of individuals and developed a source who was active in poker games and had gone to games that Flax and J.S. had run at different locations, the affidavit says.

In July 2016, the source reported that Flax conducted private, cash poker games, including in a room connected to O'Brien's Irish Pub, 5505 E. Kellogg.

The game locations had cameras and video surveillance.

A source reported that Frederiksen was a player in one game and that he “used to be a cop,” the affidavit says.

On Feb. 23, 2017, investigators interviewed Frederiksen, who said he had moved to Wichita around 2009 or 2010 and had retired from the Kansas Highway Patrol in April 2015 after more than 25 years as a trooper.

Other charges

On Jan. 12, two men – Flax and Danny Chapman – pleaded guilty to operating illegal gambling businesses. The men are among several Wichitans whose phone conversations were intercepted by the federal government in the spring or summer of 2015, including businessmen Brandon and Rodney Steven and Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, who at the time was a state senator.

Last year Brandon Steven told The Eagle he was the subject of a federal inquiry into his playing of high-stakes poker and his involvement in trying to open a casino in Kansas.

The Steven brothers and O’Donnell have not been charged nor were they mentioned in the news releases from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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