PORTLAND (AP) – The Portland Eagles Club, which was the target of an 18-month undercover investigation by Maine State Police, was fined $60,000 and stripped of its gambling license after pleading guilty Monday to three counts of aggravated unlawful gambling.

The club, which was accused of operating illegal video poker machines, entered the plea in Cumberland County Superior Court.

In addition to the fine, the club forfeited three video gambling machines and $23,353 in cash that were seized in January when police executed a search warrant.

District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said she hopes the case will send a message to other clubs that may be engaged in similar activity. She said the investigation was continuing and that some officers or trustees of the club may face criminal charges.

The pleas came five years after an investigation of illegal gambling at Eagles Clubs in Saco, Waterboro, Biddeford and Arundel. That case led to dozens of convictions of club officials who were assessed fines of up to $6,000.

Anderson said the York County investigation prompted trustees of the Portland club to unplug their gambling machines and stick them in the basement until “the heat cooled down.”

“What they did was the equivalent of flaunting their disregard for the law,” she said. “We wanted to send an immediate and strong message that this type of illegal activity by an organization purporting to be a charitable one will not be tolerated in Cumberland County.”

Maine Public Safety Commisioner Michael Cantara, whose department issues gaming licenses for nonprofits and monitors their compliance, said other probes of illegal gambling are being conducted by his special investigation division.

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