Written 5.22.11 :
Federal and local enforcement officials swoop on suspected internet gambling parlours
Teams of federal and local law enforcement officers were active across the Hanover and Henrico counties of Virginia over the weekend, swooping on suspected online gambling parlours and seizing computer equipment and records.
The Richmond Times Despatch reports flak-vested and armed agents surrounded several premises before entering.
"It looked like some sort of assault," said an employee in a shop adjoining one of the targeted operations.
Search warrants filed in the local courts claimed that the owners of various premises are under investigation as fronts for alleged illegal online computer gambling, a relatively new form of unregulated betting in Virginia, in which customers put up money for points and can recover cash winnings in-house if they succeed at computerized card games.
Four business establishments were targeted, along with the Henrico residence of one Cameron L. Davis, who is identified as the owner/operator of a Lucky's Sweepstakes shop that was among those raided.
But Richmond sites that use similar Internet devices for gaming are continuing to flourish, the Times Despatch notes, and Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring says he's not planning any direct action until new laws go into effect July 1.
Herring said those laws more clearly define what is illegal regarding operations of the so-called Internet cafés, and he noted that owner-operators can be charged with felonies.
"What I'm hoping is that all of these people will take a look at the statutes and leave. If they don't, we'll be bringing action against them. Effective July 2, if they are still operating, our position will be that they are breaking the law, and we're coming after them."
The newspaper checked five known parlours used for this type of activity in Richmond and found that all but one of them were operating "…at full tilt with steady streams of customers."
The newspaper reports that the search warrants used by Hanover undercover officers show that they have been working on infiltrating businesses for the past month to establish that there is reason to believe that current state gambling laws are being violated.
The officers won money and monitored the movements of those involved in operating the businesses. Investigators subsequently claimed they found drug paraphernalia, suspected marijuana and hydrocodone, and shotgun ammunition at the residential address they raided.
A Henrico Circuit Court judge has entered orders seizing the bank accounts of two Henrico operations, based on a court filing requesting the seizure on grounds that the funds "…were used in connection with an illegal gambling enterprise" or the money was "….proposed to be received by a winner in any illegal gambling transaction."
Charges have yet to be filed in the Hanover and Henrico actions, but investigations are continuing, according to police officials.