Published June 19, 1997 by Rebecca Taylor, Bee Staff Writer

A Modesto gambling operator had the winning hand in a Stanislaus County courtroom Wednesday.

After a day and a half of deliberations, a jury said Samouen So should get back the bulk of about $278,000 in cash and jewelry that police seized from his Paradise Road apartment last summer.

"This is a victory for all citizens against overreaching law enforcement and prosecutors trying to seize innocent people's money," defense attorney Robert Forkner proclaimed after the verdict.

A jury convicted his client last week on felony bookmaking charges. He ran a lottery game with 1,000-to-1 odds using the California Daily 3 numbers.

Using state criminal racketeering and profiteering statutes, prosecutors had sought to claim the $117,000 in seized jewelry and $161,000 in cash police seized from the home.

But the same jury that decided So's guilt decided Wednesday that he should lose only $50,000, which will be forfeited to the county's general fund.

Four other people had claimed a share in the money and jewelry, including a woman who lived with So in his small Paradise Road home along with her seven children. She is being investigated for possible welfare fraud.

Deputy District Attorney John Goulart, who had argued that all the cash and money should be forfeited, declined to comment on the case until So is sentenced July 24. So faces a maximum of three years in state prison.