Polk gambling sting busts 24, plus bus driver

Posted at 12:37 PM, Mar 28, 2016

A check cashing service office in Lakeland was really a front for a secret illegal sports-betting ring, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

"Operation Parlay" led to the arrest of 25 people and the seizure of more than $105,000 late last week, Sheriff Grady Judd announced Monday.

The head of the gambling operation, according to the Sheriff's Office, was Rene "Johnny" Rosado, 49, of Lakeland. Detectives raided his home last week, and the sheriff said his office also discovered another storefront gambling location in Winter Haven.

The operation led to $35,322 cash seized from Rosado's Bristol Bay Avenue home in Lakeland late last week in connection to the gambling operation, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Polk County School Board bus driver Warren Hawthorne, 60, of Green Road in Lakeland was also arrested in the operation. Hawthorne owns the the BD&W Check Cashing office, which was used by Rosado.

The school system is performing an internal investigation into Hawthorne, who has been suspended from work with pay.

Hawthorne, hired by the school system in October 1998, earns $19,343 per year. His disciplinary file with the school system included a letter of reprimand for failing to perform a proper pre-trip inspection on a bus.

He drove students at Southwest Middle, Highlands Grove Elementary and George Jenkins High schools.

A raid of Hawthorne's Green Road house turned up $41,436 cash, believed to be connected to the sports betting. The raid also recovered two stolen firearms.

Rosado is charged with the following:

  • Keeping Gambling Houses
  • Illegal Bookmaking
  • Conspire to Illegal Bookmaking

Hawthorne is charged with:

  • Renting House for Gambling Purposes

Undercover detectives made nine bets at the BW&D Cash Checking location, and made three more illegal sports bets at a Winter Haven Location pretending to be a "My Wireless," says the Sheriff's Office.

Other suspects arrested

  • Alba Adams-Diaz, 22, of Olender Dr. in Lakeland

She has been charged with being an agent or employee of keeper of a gambling house (1 count), illegal bookmaking (3 counts) and with conspiring to illegal bookmaking (3 counts).

Adams is a teller who takes bets at the Lakeland illegal gambling operation.

  • Lidianela Pons, 29, of King Avenue, Lakeland.

She has been charged with being an agent or employee of keeper of a gambling House (1 count), illegal bookmaking (3 counts) and with conspiring to illegal bookmaking (3 counts). 

Pons is a teller who takes illegal sports bets at the Lakeland gambling location.

  • Luis Felipe Arias, 20, of Big Oaks Drive, Lakeland

He is charged with being an agent or employee of keeper of a gambling house (1 count) and illegal bookmaking (2 counts).

Arias assists Rene "Johnny" Rosado in the operation of the Winter Haven.

  • Maribel Sanchez-Lorenzo, 48, of Bristol Bay Ave, Lakeland

She is charged with possession of cannabis under 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sanchez-Lorenzo lives with Rene "Johnny" Rosado at the Bristol Bay Avenue address and was arrested for the drug charges when deputies were serving the search warrant at the residence.


  • Monica Lugo, 29, of Lakeland

Wanted for "assisting in the operation" of the Winter Haven gambling site at 1408 1st St. North.

Detectives also charged 19 people with unlawful betting, a second-degree misdemeanor.