TERRELL CO., GA (WALB) - Video gaming machines are at the center of a massive bust in Terrell County. Agents spent all day counting cash sorting through lottery tickets and turning off these machines.
"We've been investigating this since January of 2015. We've seen millions of dollars moved around these stores and banks here locally," said GBI Special Agent in Charge Cindy Ledford.
The raids started at a home on Covey Court in Lee County early this morning. The homeowner and his family surrounded by police
Shortly after a store in Sasser was roped off. The Dawson Food Mart was also raided along with the Citgo right next door.
Agents say they also busted the Budget Inn on 82. They believe many of the clerks at these stores lived in the motel.
The machines at the heart of the investigation aren't illegal, but agents think these stores were offering cash. "Anytime you redeem credits from these machines it has to be for store merchandise, that being fuel, lottery tickets, anything inside the store cannot at any time be redeemed for cash," said Ledford.
A sixth raid was made at the Boomerang on US 82 at the same time. Agents say that store is owned by another man. The investigation started after tips from local law enforcement.
Ledford says the GBI is determined to stop this activity. "With the money's that actually go through these machines, again were talking millions and millions of dollars, just here in a small town in Dawson. That's a tremendous amount of money running through these machines every month," said Ledford.
"It's crazy in our area. I mean you don't think something like that's going to happen across the street," said Nicole Richards.
Nicole Richards can't believe this massive law enforcement presence across the street from her. "For the amount of traffic with the police presence in that, you'd have thought somebody was murdered, all the guns that I've seen out and the bags of stuff coming out of that house. It's crazy," said Richards.
Instead agents were raiding the home of a convenience store owner. They say he owns three stores running millions of dollars illegally through commercial gambling machines. They seized his truck a Cadillac Escalade and Audi SUV while we were there.
"We will be looking for monetary assets as a result of any gambling activity in the stores, in the motel itself and in the residence," said GBI Special Agent Cindy Ledford.
The owner of the home was taken into custody after the raid, and all of his stores in Sasser and Dawson were raided and closed as well. The cash from his drawer and his lottery tickets were taken.
Back in Quail Chase, Richards says a lot of people live at the home. but they've never met anyone. "They keep to themselves. I don't know them. I've never even met them. They've never said hi, nothing," said Richards.
A court ordered receiver took possession of the stores and home. It's not clear what police plan to do with the cars.
Agents continue to make arrests in the investigation. They also raided a fourth store owned by a separate man.
We are working to get all the names.
In October of last year, GBI agents raided Kuntry's Restaurant and Convenience Center in Sasser. Agents say they seized gaming machines paying off illegal cash payouts.
Two store clerks at the X-Press Mart in Berrien County were arrested this past February. Agents say illegal cash payouts were also made from gaming machines at this store.