VALPARAISO — George Borovilos was wrongly charged with a felony count of promoting professional gambling because at no time did he own, manage or have control over the now-shuttered Broadway Cafe where the illegal activities reportedly took place.
That was the argument of Borovilos' defense attorney, Larry Rogers, as the gambling trial got underway Tuesday afternoon before Senior Judge Thomas Webber.
While 67-year-old Borovilos is identified as the owner of the business in the charging documents, Rogers said the restaurant that had operated until just last week along a local stretch of U.S. 30 was owned by a corporation that was entirely controlled by his wife.
The felony count of promoting professional gambling Borovilos faces requires that he had control over the location where the gambling allegedly took place and that he knowingly allowed the illegal activity to go on, Rogers told the newly selected group of jurors.
The case, which resulted in charges against others as well in Porter and LaPorte counties, was triggered on Oct. 25, 2013, when Indiana Gaming Commission Control Officer Carl Diaz noticed what he believed to be gambling going on around him as he was having breakfast at the diner by Sturdy Road, according to court records.
"He was there just as a regular customer," Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Salina Malone said during opening arguments in the trial.
During the two-year investigation, Diaz placed several bets on professional and college football games using parlay cards and saw evidence that Borovilos knew that betting was going on at the restaurant and by some of its staff, she said.
"He permitted it to be used for gambling," Malone said.
Diaz said he saw Borovilos sitting at a booth with a man known for taking bets at the restaurant, and the man was filling out parlay cards, according to court documents.
On other occasions, Borovilos took betting cards from the officer and acknowledged the betting going on in the restaurant by pointing it out to the officer, according to the charging information.
Rogers said while the state carried out a costly and timely investigation, which he believed jurors would come to see as a waste, it never investigated Borovilos.
He said Borovilos, who came to this country from Greece at the age of 11, worked for the Cook County Sheriff's Department as a courtroom officer in Chicago until suffering a stroke 15 years ago that forced him to retire. The stroke left him impaired, he said.
Borovilos then began hanging around the Valparaiso restaurant as a way to occupy his time and help out as needed, Rogers said. But at no time did Borovilos have control over the restaurant, Rogers said.
The control was solely in the hands of his wife, who did not allow gambling to go on, he said.
Diaz said in the charging information that a restaurant employee told him along the way that the owner's wife did not like the gambling taking place on site.
The gambling was carried out by a Kouts man, who regularly dropped off the parlay cards at a variety of Valparaiso-area restaurants and legion halls, Rogers said.
"All these gambling dens here in Valparaiso," he said.
Yet Borovilos was the only one from those businesses and halls charged with promoting professional gambling, Rogers said.
"Not with George's permission," he said of the betting that was allegedly going on, "because he couldn't give that permission."
The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday morning with presentation of evidence in the courtroom of Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford, who is away.