During a series of pre-Super Bowl gambling raids executed here Saturday night, police recovered four cartons containing what they believe are detailed business records of the gambling operation run in the 1950s and 1960s by the late Roger W. (Whitetop) Simkins, and allegedly inherited in the 1970s by his son, Roger W. (Roddy) Simkins, Jr.
Although the five raids primarily were aimed at gathering evidence against the younger Simkins, one law enforcement official described some of the older records seized as a potential treasure trove of information about Washington's gambling world and possible official corruption. Much of the information appeared to be in code, this official said.
No arrests have yet been made as a result of the raids, but law enforcement officials said they would present evidence to a grand jury concerning the activities of Simkins and three other men whose homes were searched. They are Joe Nesline, a long-time gambler who lives at 5225 Pooks Hill Rd, in Bethesda; Carl (Dutch) Roth, of 1234 Massachusetts Ave., NW., in Washington; and Nathan (Reds) Cohen, of 4545 Connecticut Ave. NW.
During a 13-day period in late December and early January, police placed a wiretap on two phone numbers at 157 U St. NW., where Simkins had offices. There were roughly 1,500 gambling - related phone calls overheard in that period, and bets were placed totalling more than $500,000, according to one of the search-warrant affidavits.
Most of the bets were for amounts between $1,000 and $4,000, the affidavit revealed. Simkins, who personally answered many of the phone calls, apparently was acting as a "lay-off" service -- taking betting action too big for smaller gamblers to handle, said a law enforcement official.
Simkins was overheard on the wire tap telling one customer that he soon would be moving his base of operations to a friend's apartment at 427 N St. SW, which led police to secure a search warrant for that address, too. He also said during one tapped conversation that some business records were stored at his home, 1702 Shepherd St. NW.
It was at the Shepherd Street address that police recovered the records supposedly belonging to Simkins' father.
Simkins himself was leaving 427 N St. SW on Saturday evening when two plainclothes policemen stopped him and revealed that they had a search warrant for the premises and 'his person, according to a law enforcement official. Simkins then escorted the two police officers back into the building for the actual search.
Simultaneous searches were conducted at the U Street and Shepherd Street addresses, at Nesline's Bethesda home, at Cohen's and Roth's Washington apartments, and at an unspecified location in Las Vegas, Nev. A planned raid in New York City was not executed, for unspecified reasons.
One of those who participated in the raids here said that they were part of an unusually patient and sophisticated investigation. Police considered raiding some of the same addresses a year ago, this source said, but decided to delay in the hope of building a stronger case. Super Bowl time has become a traditional season for gambling raids in recent years.
This same official predicted that the searches would seriously hurt the sports-betting business here, regardless of the charges or convictions ultimately secured.
"Simkins had no chance to balance his books," said the official. "It's going to cause him havoc."
The official explained that Simkins himself might need to lay off some of his bets with still bigger gamblers, but, without his records, police would not know for sure. Nor would Simkins be able to tell, after yesterday's Super Bowl game, just who had won their bets and who had lost. Customers, likewise, would be thrown into a state of confusion about whether they could expect to be paid, and there would be few if any bets placed on the day of the game itself.
Simkins' father was one of the area's most prominent gambling figures for two decades before his death of a stroke in 1973.
The son, who attended the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, hosted an elaborate party for approximately 1,000 guests the Shoreham Hotel on April 30, 1976, the night of the heavyweight championship fight here between Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Young. Simkins is said to frequent Plum's and Fran O'Brien's, two downtown bars.
At Plum's shortly before Saturday night's raids, according to an investigator, Simkins came up to one of the undercover policemen working on the case, and said, "Don't I know you?" The policeman denied it, and Simkins apparently was satisfied.
Simkins' home, a one-story ranch house with bars on all its windows, has repeatedly been burglarized, police say. The elder Simkins was bound and robed of $288 shortly before his death.
Another target of the raids was Joe Nesline, 64, whose arrest record spans 40 years and includes charges of murder, bribery and bootlegging, as well as gambling violations. Nesline, who claimed to be retired in recent years, was acquitted in 1951 of shooting a man at point-blank range in an after-hour club. Nesline said it had been self-defense, and other witnesses testified that the victim had been a "gangster" and a "bully."
A law enforcement official said that the current investigation seemed to show Nesline -- whose underworld code name is "Possum," acting in a "consultant" capacity.
When police and FBI agents arrived to search Nesline's Bethesda apartment Saturday, they were met by a young woman in a negligee who took them inside and introduced them to Nesline. Nesline then insisted on shaking everyone's hand, according to a law enforcement official.