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Assyrian-American Group Doesn't Have Nonprofit Status, Police Chief says

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2001 at 10:32 AM CT

TURLOCK, California -- The Police Department suspended the Assyrian-American Civic Club's bingo permit Wednesday, asserting that the club does not have nonprofit status as required by law.

Police Chief Lonald Lott took the action at about 3:30 p.m., said Rosemary Howser, spokeswoman for the Police Department.

Detectives told Sam Andrew, the club's director of bingo, about the permit suspension during an interview at the Police Department, she said.

The club's public bingo games had been scheduled for three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights.

The city's bingo ordinance and state law specify that bingo game operators must hold nonprofit status. A nonprofit organization elsewhere in the region brings in more than $2 million annually, holding two or more bingo games a week.

Turlock's 55-year-old Assyrian-American organization, with a membership of about 1,200, bills itself as the largest Assyrian club in the United States. The club building at 2618 N. Golden State Blvd., besides playing host to club activities, is the site of a number of community events, including wedding receptions.

Calls to the club were not returned Wednesday afternoon.

On Oct. 31, detectives served search warrants at the club and seized several computers and club documents. They also searched club President Ramin Odisho's home and took club records and club property found there. Police said they were responding to several complaints from club members who claimed that illegal activities were going on inside the club.

Detectives reviewed the documents and computer records, then sent the data to the California Department of Justice, for review by the office's division of gambling control.

The Department of Justice submitted a report to the Police Department two weeks ago.

The state report is still being reviewed, Howser said. But one conclusion, she said, was that the club did not have nonprofit status and therefore could not run bingo games.

"We are still conducting a criminal investigation and expect it to conclude in 30 to 60 days," Howser said. "If we substantiate any violations of the law, we will arrest those who are responsible."

Under the law, members of the club have five days to contact Lott and detail how they are going to correct the problem with the club's nonprofit status.

"We are willing to work with them," Howser said. "It is of utmost importance that (the Police Department) acknowledges the Assyrian Civic Club of Turlock for its outstanding contributions to the community. (The club) should be recognized as a service-oriented club with a long history in Turlock."


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