November 10, 2016
By Megan Kearney
Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant on a suspected illicit gambling location in Newberry Thursday afternoon.
Deputies removed an estimated 100 computers, ATMs, software and other items relating to the operation from Club Bingo LLC, according to sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Brandon Kutner.
The building, at 311 SW 250th St., formerly operated as an internet café and caused concern for city of Newberry officials when the owner, Greg Waltrip, attempted to renew his business license in August.
ACSO has been investigating the operation since Newberry officials contacted them for help.
After months of investigation, detectives were granted the search warrant.
When state officials cracked down on such cafes in 2013, about 1,000 of them had popped up around the state, purporting to sell internet access to patrons.
“In these types of operations, they try to mask what they’re really doing inside and make it seem like a legitimate business,” Kutner said.
Although Waltrip went through the proper steps to apply for the business in the city of Newberry, there were still unanswered questions about its legitimacy, especially because internet service is free at places like libraries and schools.
“Whenever someone tries to charge for services through the internet that is readily available through other sources, it kind of raises a red flag,” Kutner said.
The location and the building’s dark, tinted windows also indicated an attempt to mask suspicious activity, he said.
“The key here is what we found through the course of our investigation,” Kutner said. “There was actually money changing hands for the operation of illicit gambling-type activities.”
Waltrip is believed to own several other gambling operations and could face at least five felony charges regarding illicit gambling and racketeering, Kutner said. Waltrip could not be quickly reached for comment Thursday evening.