By Jon Gosa
May 17, 2016
DAWSON – State law enforcement authorities raided five Terrell County businesses Tuesday that they said were engaged in commercial gambling operations.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Commercial Gambling Unit agents, officials with the state Department of Revenue, and troopers with Georgia State Patrol posts in Americus, Albany and Cuthbert executed a half-dozen search warrants in Dawson and Sasser on Tuesday, GBI officials said.
“We began investigating this case in January of 2015 after receiving several anonymous tips and complaints,” said GBI Special Agent in Charge Cindy Ledford. “After we were tipped off about the cash payouts, we began our undercover investigation. From there, we proceeded to check out the suspects’ financial documents and any common denominator linked with money gained illegally.”
The warrants, which were executed in conjunction with the Georgia Lottery Corporation, were for violations of Georgia’s commercial gambling laws, the GBI reported.
“Cash payouts of this type are illegal in Georgia,” Ledford said.
GBI officials said search warrants were served at four businesses, one motel and one residence. Agents collected evidence for over a year related to crimes of commercial gambling, seizing monetary assets and property gained from the alleged illegal use of gaming machines.
“The gaming machines themselves, along with all of the properties, will be seized, including a residence in Lee County,” Ledford said. “The owners are being arrested, and any employees that are found to have made cash payouts will also be arrested.”
All of the locations were licensed to operate coin-operated amusement machines, GBI officials said, and the investigation found that customers were receiving cash payouts for winning credits. In Georgia, credits may only be redeemed for lottery tickets or store merchandise, excluding alcohol and tobacco products.
The search warrants were executed at the Citgo Station, 321 S. Main St.; Dawson Food Mart, 125 Graves Station Road; the Budget Inn, 609 E. Forrester Drive SE, and Boomerang Food and Fuel, 1920 Albany Highway, all in Dawson, and at USA Gas, 182 U.S. Highway 82 in Sasser.
In addition to the business locations, a Lee County residence was searched with the assistance of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
“I am not sure at this time if gambling was going on at the residence,” Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals said. “Lee County officers have just been there to assist the GBI.”
According to the GBI, 11 arrests had been made by Tuesday afternoon including Hemant Patel, 48, of Leesburg; Shilpaben H. Patel, 40, of Leesburg; Dip H. Patel, 19, of Leesburg; Ashokkumar Jivabhai Patel, 46, of Dawson; Amrish P. Patel, 47, of Dawson; Rameshbhai Patel, 50, of Dawson; Santoshkumar Patel, 32, of Dawson; Nandubhai Darji, 44, of Dawson; Prahladbhai Chaudhari, 44, of Dawson; Manshukhlal Patel, 46, of Dawson; and Joinyp Patel, 42, of Dawson.
“This was a big case,” said GBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ron Braxley. “We had to show a pattern of behavior and wait for everything to be wrapped up.”
More than 40 law enforcement and state officials conducted the raids simultaneously.
Original Article: Albany Herald