SKOWHEGAN — The former head of the Madison Veterans of Foreign Wars post entered no plea Wednesday to charges alleging he had made illegal payouts to patrons who played a video poker game at the VFW and then had tried to hide evidence from police.

Louis Padula, 71, of Anson, was arraigned in Skowhegan District Court and entered no plea to charges of unlawful gambling, tampering with a witness and falsifying physical evidence.

In court, Padula told Judge Andrew Benson that he understands his rights and the charges against him. He is scheduled to appear in court next on May 27.

“Mr. Padula has not done anything criminal, and it is unfortunate that the state is pursuing these charges,” said his attorney, Anthony Shusta, outside the courtroom. Padula declined to comment.

Until recently, Padula was the post commander for the Madison VFW. He was arrested in March after police received a tip about illegal gambling at the post. Since then, he has been removed from office and a new commander has been elected, said Ronald Smith, the department commander for the Maine VFW. At the time the charges were brought up, Smith said the state VFW would be conducting their own investigation into the Madison post and Padula’s actions, but on Wednesday he said it is no longer something the organization is pursuing.

“The state police brought charges against him, and we let it go at that,” Smith said. “We relieved him of command, and there are new officers in charge. Hopefully, it will straighten itself out.”

The Maine VFW has been working with other posts around the state to keep them informed of the laws and regulations surrounding nonprofit gaming, Smith said. The video poker machines have been removed from the Madison post, he said.

“Of course, there are always concerns that there may be some people that are still doing the improper things, but I don’t really think so. I think most of it has been straightened up,” Smith said.

Complaints alleging illegal gambling are rare with only about two or three being reported per year in Maine, according to Sgt. Michael Johnston, of the Maine State Police. “It’s very rare that we end up getting to the point where we charge someone formally,” he said. The majority of nonprofit gaming sites in the state — places such as Elks clubs, VFW posts and American Legion posts — are compliant with state laws and regulations, he said.

According to state laws, certain types of gaming, such as bingo and card games, are legal, although video poker games are not, Johnston said. Police think Padula was overseeing payouts at the VFW for several years and attempted to destroy evidence after an investigation was underway.

Representatives from the Madison post didn’t return calls for comment on Wednesday.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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