Stockton Pastor Claims He Thought Illegal Gambling Operation was an Arcade

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STOCKTON -- A Stockton pastor who runs a business with former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva is now accused of running an illegal gambling operation.

FOX40 first met Pastor Thai “John” Nguyen two years ago.

“’Mr. Mayor, you want bacon in that?’ And he said, ‘No, I want a double cheeseburger,’” Nguyen said at the time.

At the time, he was waiting for Silva to bail out.

On Tuesday, he was arrested and accused of running a now shut down illegal gambling operation on North El Dorado Street in Stockton.

It was a far cry from his work as a pastor and co-owner of a family-oriented, inflatable water park that he runs with Silva.

Nguyen claims he was not running an illegal gambling hall.

“Yeah, because it’s an arcade,” he told FOX40 while in jail. “You put the money there, you’re playing, you’re shooting airplane ... and nothing is really, like, violent.”

He said what he was trying to run was a thrift shop and that he had only been managing the place for the past two months.

“What I do is from my heart and to bring this to the community. You see a lot of homeless are coming and I’m trying to help the homeless,” Nguyen said.

Coincidentally, that's when investigators began their work.

“Our detectives from our Vice Unit has been looking at this establishment for approximately the last two months,” said Stockton Police Officer Joe Silva.

Officer Silva said numerous illegal items were taken by investigators.

“Thirty computers, along with three gaming tables that were used for the purpose of gambling, along with a large amount of cash and multiple firearms,” Silva said.

That included a stolen gun.

Nguyen claims none of those weapons were his.

“Everything they found is somewhere that I don’t even go,” he said.

At the end of the interview, Nguyen shared an apology to his customers, congregates and community.

“I’m sorry for what I did, I didn’t know it was wrong,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen is scheduled to be in court Thursday afternoon.

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