Stores raided for illegal gambling machines - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Stores raided for illegal gambling machines

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Officers raided four Dougherty County Convenience stores Wednesday in a crackdown on illegal gambling machines.

The owner of two of the stores was arrested during raids of his stores and home.

The D. A. and Sheriff promise to continue seizing gambling machines until there are no more left in the county.

"They're closed." Customers at the A&J Food Mart on Newton Road were turned away by Sheriff's Investigators Wednesday.

District Attorney and Sheriff's Investigators raided this store and the A&J Food Mart Number two on Westover Boulevard after the Grand Jury indicted the owner, Hemang Patel, on 7 counts of gambling and racketeering.

Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards said "We are gathering evidence that confirms some of the racketeering activity."

Patel's home in the gated community on Grand Island Road in Lee County was also raided and searched. Prosecutors say undercover officers have been playing the illegal machines in those stores since August 2008.

They are illegal because they pay out cash rather than merchandise. Regular customer Roger Harris told me that he had seen the machines, but thought they were legal.

Harris said "I don't understand those machines. I play the lotto. I looked up one day, I seen them."

The gambling machines had been confiscated from these two stores last month. The D.A. said today's searches were for evidence following the money trail through Patel's corporation.

Edwards said "The money comes from people, sometimes who are receiving public assistance themselves. That money goes to these gambling operations and does not come back to the state by way of taxes. It goes out of the country a lot of times."

The D. A. also filed a civil suit against Patel's Ameer Corporation to try to recover money earned through illegal gambling.

Wednesday afternoon two more stores were raided. Gambling machines were confiscated by Sheriff's Deputies at the Citgo on the Liberty Bypass and Holly Drive, and the Stop N Shop at Antioch Road and the Liberty Bypass.

The D. A. said the investigation into those seizures is still underway, and no one has been charged in those raids yet.

The Sheriff and District Attorney say their crackdown is ongoing, and more stores could be raided.

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