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RSI officials appear in court

Racing Services Inc. owner Susan Bala appeared in Cass County District Court Thursday to face accusations of illegal gambling, a charge her attorney called "wholly unnecessary and redundant."...

Raymundo Diaz

Racing Services Inc. owner Susan Bala appeared in Cass County District Court Thursday to face accusations of illegal gambling, a charge her attorney called "wholly unnecessary and redundant."

Bala and her company, along with RSI Vice President Raymundo Diaz and his company, Global Contact Inc., were arraigned on one count each of engaging or participation in the business of gambling, a Class C felony.

Bala and Diaz pleaded not guilty on Dec. 18 to a dozen federal charges relating to money laundering and operating an illegal gambling site in south Fargo.

They're accused of taking $99 million in bets at a secret, unlicensed betting parlor at Global Contact, 1318 23rd St. S., between Oct. 1, 2002, and April 28, 2003, when federal authorities raided the site.

"Clearly this is a piggy back on the federal case, and it makes you wonder why two separate things are being done in two separate forums," Dennis Fisher, the attorney representing Diaz and Global Contact, said after Thursday's arraignment.

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"The criminal charges today are wholly unnecessary and redundant," added Bala's attorney, Mark Beauchene.

Global Contact wasn't a place someone could walk into and place a bet, but rather a "call center" covered by RSI's simulcast service provider license, Fisher said.

"No money changed hands," he said. "It was all data."

RSI wasn't represented by an attorney at the hearing.

Jonathan Byers, the North Dakota assistant attorney general prosecuting the case, said Bala and Wayne Drewes, the state-appointed receiver managing RSI, were each served with a summons to appear.

But Drewes didn't attend the hearing, and Beauchene said he hasn't been contacted by Drewes to represent RSI. Byers said he can understand why Bala feels she can't represent RSI while there's a receiver in place.

Phone messages left for Drewes at RSI and his accounting office were not returned Thursday. Byers said he has not had any contact with Drewes.

Bala and Diaz will remain free on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond as long as they continue to make their state and federal court appearances, said East Central District Judge John Irby.

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A preliminary hearing was set for Feb. 5. Beauchene asked that extra time be allowed for the hearing because of the extensive nature of case. Byers agreed, saying it's a "voluminous case in terms of the number of documents and witnesses involved."

A tentative trial date is set for May 18.

Meanwhile, the state Racing Commission has collected a $450,000 bond from RSI, according to State Racing Director Paul Bowlinger.

The Racing Commission required RSI to post the bond when the company became delinquent on gambling taxes owed to the state's general fund last year, Bowlinger said.

The commission collected the bond on Dec. 31, the day it was set to expire. A separate $50,000 bond for delinquent taxes to the commission's special fund expires June 30.

The $450,000 bond brings RSI's outstanding tax bill with the state to about $6 million.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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