Drug Arrests in St. Mary's Co. - Southern Maryland Headline News

Drug Arrests in St. Mary's Co.


LEONARDTOWN, Md. (Feb. 26, 2015)—In January of 2015 the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office Vice/Narcotics Division initiated two separate investigations involving the operation of gaming devices at two locations in St. Mary's County. As a result, Roger Benfield, Charles Gatton and Hilda Mae Gatton have all been charged with various crimes related to diverting approximately $267,987 in funds derived from gaming devices which were legally intended for local charities.

Gaming Devices not operated according to law at Patuxent Moose Lodge in Hollywood

The first investigation was initiated on January 21 when detectives visited the Patuxent Moose Lodge in Hollywood upon receiving anonymous information regarding the presence of "illegal slot machines." Detectives quickly dispelled the allegations by determining the devices were not "slot machines," but were in fact "gaming devices" which were legal. However, the investigation revealed the gaming devices were not being operated in accordance with the St. Mary's County gaming provision and therefore in violation of the statewide provision.

Investigators determined that Roger Lee Benfield, Sr. is the owner of R.E. Enterprises, Incorporated—a Maryland corporation that provides coin operated amusement games to retail establishments—and that in 2013, Benfield and the Patuxent Moose Lodge entered into an agreement that permitted Benfield to place five gaming devices within the establishment.

The agreement permitted the proceeds of the gaming devices to be divided between Roger Benfield's company and the Patuxent Moose Lodge with Benfield being responsible for the maintenance of the gaming devices which required, among other tasks, collecting money from the devices and ensuring the proper disbursements to the Patuxent Moose Lodge and to his company.

The gaming devices, financial records, and other items of evidence were seized from the Patuxent Moose Lodge pending further investigation. An analysis of the financial documents revealed that from about August of 2013 through January 21, 2015, Benfield retained approximately $27,987.10 in proceeds from the operation of the gaming devices. Detectives also uncovered evidence that suggests Benfield became a member of the Patuxent Moose Lodge for the sole purpose of giving the appearance of compliance with the criminal statute which requires the gaming devices to be operated by a member of the qualified organization.

Brass Rail Sports Bar in Great Mills

The second investigation was initiated on January 23 when detectives visited the Brass Rail Sports Bar in Great Mills to investigate the presence of additional gaming devices that were being operated by Benfield.

Investigators made contact with Charles Benedict "Dickie" Gatton and Hilda Mae Gatton, who own and operate the establishment. The investigators also discovered the presence of five gaming devices. An inspection of the devices revealed four of the devices operated in the same manner as the devices located in the Patuxent Moose Lodge and one device that functioned as a pull-tab vending machine, both of which are gaming devices.

The investigation revealed that in 2008, Charles Gatton entered into an agreement with the Leonardtown Lions Club that permitted a gaming device to be placed inside the Brass Rail Sports Bar and the proceeds from the gaming device to be divided evenly between the Leonardtown Lions Club and the Brass Rail Sports Bar. The device, which was the previously described pull-tab vending machine, was managed exclusively by Hilda Mae Gatton and required her, among other tasks, to collect money from the device and ensure the proper disbursement to the Leonardtown Lions Club and to the Brass Rails Sports Bar.

The investigation also revealed that in January of 2012, Benfield and Charles Gatton entered into an agreement that permitted Benfield to place four gaming devices inside the establishment and required Benfield to manage the devices, which included collecting money from the devices and ensuring the proper disbursement to the Brass Rail Sports Bar and R.E. Benfield Enterprises, Incorporated.

All of the gaming devices were seized from the establishment and additional items of evidence were obtained by the investigators. An inspection of those documents revealed that from January of 2012 through December of 2014, Hilda Mae Gatton and the Leonardtown Lions Club both received approximately $24,460.00 in proceeds from the operation of the gaming device. Furthermore, those same documents and records indicate Charles Gatton and Benfield both received approximately $109,498.00 from the operation of the four gaming devices from January of 2012 through December of 2014. With respect to Charles Gatton, it is believed that he retained approximately $73,892.00 of his share of the proceeds for personal benefit while giving just $35,606.00 to the Leonardtown Lions Club. With respect to Benfield, it is believed he retained his entire share of the proceeds for personal benefit.

During the course of the investigation, several search and seizure warrants were obtained which lead to the seizure of gaming devices and more than $129,000.00 in cash from proceeds of the gaming devices in the possession of Charles and Hilda Mae Gatton.

In summary, the investigations revealed Roger Benfield, Charles Gatton, and Hilda Mae Gatton received portions of the proceeds generated by the gaming devices for personal benefit. Although the Patuxent Moose Lodge and the Leonardtown Lions Club are qualified organizations permitted to operate gaming devices, the proceeds generated from the operation of the gaming devices were intentionally diverted to the three subjects, contrary to the laws which require all proceeds to be retained by the organization.

On February 23, detectives applied for charges against Roger Benfield, Charles Gatton and Hilda Mae Gatton related to this investigation. More specifically, with respect to the investigation at the Patuxent Moose Lodge, Benfield was charged with one count of having an interest in a gaming table, one count of keeping a gaming table at the Patuxent Moose Lodge, and one count of perpetrating a theft scheme having a value between $10,000.00 and $100,000.00.

With respect to the investigation at the Brass Rail Sports Bar, Benfield was charged with one count of having an interest in a gaming table, one count of keeping a gaming table at the Brass Rail Sports Bar, and one count of perpetrating a theft scheme having a value more than $100,000.00. Charles "Dickie" Gatton was charged with one count of having an interest in a gaming table, one count of permitting a gaming table to be kept at the Brass Rail, and one count of perpetrating a theft scheme having a value between $10,000.00 and $100,000.00. Hilda Mae Gatton was charged with one count of having an interest in a gaming table and one count of perpetrating a theft scheme having a value between $10,000.00 and $100,000.00.

In total, the gaming devices at the Brass Rail Sports Bar alone generated more than $300,000.00 in gross proceeds, of which the Leonardtown Lions Club received only $60,000.00. By law, all of the proceeds must be directed to the charity.

The investigation is continuing and detectives will continue to work with the State's Attorney's Office to determine if additional charges and/or arrests will be made.

Source: St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office Vice/Narcotics Division (The document was edited for format and brevity)

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