Prosecutors seek to seize stores after gambling arrest - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Prosecutors seek to seize stores after gambling arrest

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Prosecutors say some convenience store owners let customers trade food stamps for gambling money .

The Dougherty District Attorney filed a civil suit seeking to seize two stores under state racketeering laws.

He wants to send a clear message to other store owners that he intends to run the illegal gambling machines out of the county.

Both the A and J Food Mart on Newton Road and the A and J Food Mart Number 2 on Westover Boulevard remained closed Thursday. Yellow crime scene tape surrounds the parking lot and gas pumps. Dougherty County Sheriff's Deputies guard the stores.

Prosecutors say owner Hemang Patel allowed customers to trade their food stamps or EBT card to get money to gamble.

Edwards said "That's basically the card issued by the state to allow people to get groceries, not gamble."

Wednesday D.A. , Sheriff's, and Dougherty County Police officers raided four convenience stores, seizing gambling machines and evidence. They arrested Patel on 7 counts of illegal gambling and racketeering. Prosecutors also filed a civil suit against Patel and his corporation, seeking to seize his stores and other property under state racketeering laws.

Edwards said "The money that is coming into these various racketeering agents is now being literally sent out of Dougherty County, out of Georgia, out of the country. So we need to recoup this for the state of Georgia."

Edwards said Investigators found these gambling machines "widespread" in convenience stores around the county, and now he will use lawsuits to seize stores, homes, and other property from store owners to show how serious law enforcement is about stopping the illegal gambling.

Edwards said "Very serious. And we are looking into this. I anticipate you will hear more about our affirmative action in dealing with this type situation."

Two other stores not owned by Patel were raided Wednesday afternoon. Five gambling machines were seized at the Stop N Shop on the Liberty Expressway, while six machines were seized at the Citgo on the Liberty Expressway. No arrests have been made in those raids yet, but Prosecutors say they will use tough racketeering laws to make it too high a price to pay for store owners to keep those illegal gambling machines.

Hemang Patel is still being held at the Dougherty County jail.

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