Alaska State Troopers investigate illegal gambling operation

Kenai, Alaska (KINY) - In December 2022, the Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna were alerted that an illegal gambling operation was occurring in the Kenai area.
Troopers

Investigators from the Alaska State Troopers began a multi-month investigation into the operation.

Throughout the investigation, investigators determined that The Spot, a Kenai-based business, was operating multiple video gambling machines and that The Arctic Spot, a Soldotna-based business, was operating multiple video gambling machines.

Although the games were advertised as games of skill, through undercover surveillance, the games were determined to be games of chance illegal under Alaska law.

On Oct. 5, 2023, investigators from the Alaska State Troopers, along with Troopers from patrol and officers from the Kenai Police Department and Soldotna Police Department, executed multiple search warrants on the businesses and the homes of the individuals operating the illegal operations.

During the search warrant service, four money counters, financial reports, gambling games, accessories to the games, an AK-47 rifle with a removed serial number, and approximately $75,000 were seized from various locations.

Investigators also arrested the following individuals following the search warrant service: 

  • 40-year-old Soldotna resident Richard Mauia is the owner of The Spot. Mauia met with undercover investigators inside The Spot and instructed them on how to play the games.  Mauia was observed at The Spot several times and was identified as being security while the gambling establishment was open. Mauia was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree.
  • 42-year-old Kenai resident Tom Papalagi instructed undercover law enforcement on how to play the game. He was described as being security for the gambling establishments. Papalagi was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree, possession of Gambling Records in the First Degree, and Misconduct Involving a Weapon in the Third Degree.
  • 31-year-old Kenai resident Weiqiang He instructed undercover law enforcement on how to play the game and would pay out people as they played the game. He was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree.
  • 53-year-old Kenai resident Chengshan Liu was observed tending to the business and removing money from the gambling machines.  Liu was arrested on charges of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree.

The investigation remains active and ongoing.

Additional arrests may be made as the investigation continues.

The Alaska State Troopers would like to thank the Kenai Police Department and Soldotna Police Department for their assistance.