Tuesday, April 5, 2016 : 567 COMPUTERS SEIZED IN VIRGINIA ONLINE GAMBLING RAIDS.
"Retail bidding" rationale not accepted by law enforcement.
567 computers, along with other evidence, was seized by police in Virginia late last month following investigations into so-called "retail bidding" companies, the latest ruse used by former internet cafe gambling providers to find workarounds in state anti-online gambling laws.
The most recent raid was carried out on a recently opened 10,000 square foot "retail bidding" enterprise that police claim was just another front for internet gambling.
The raid on Chippenham Bids on the Midlothian Turnpike saw the owner, 24-year-old Liang Liu, questioned by police and asked to print out a range of business documents from his admin computers.
According to court filings the printouts and other evidence illustrated that the enterprise was a front for an online gambling operation.
Lt. Jim Profita, commander of the department’s vice and narcotics unit, told local reporters:
“People were paying money to play these games, and they were either receiving credit or money back in return so they could supposedly "bid” on merchandise."
The Chippenham Bids raid was the fifth Internet gambling store in the area to be investigated in the past six months, with enforcement spokesmen claiming that these unregulated enterprises are promoted as legitimate retail establishments but in reality are illegal Internet gambling venues.
Police have shuttered all five and seized a significant amount of equipment.
“Each one of them is trying to put a spin on it, that they are some kind of retail bidding (operation) – like eBay or a QuiBids-type thing,” Profita said.
“But people usually do that in the privacy of their own home. They don’t go to a location to pay money to use someone’s computer to bid. And no one was actually bidding on anything, at least to my knowledge.”
In related news, Henrico County police Lt. Chris Eley said last week that a grand jury is currently investigating three operations county investigators searched and closed February 17 this year.
In the February raids, investigators seized a total of 197 computers, $10,859 in cash, digital money counters, receipt machines and various business documents from all three locations.
Richmond police, meanwhile, in mid-December closed a similar operation; police spokesman Gene Lepley said an investigation is ongoing in conjunction with the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
Richmond and Henrico police conducted investigations of several weeks using undercover detectives to infiltrate the operations and pose as customers who would bid on merchandise and play casino-style online games. Officers using official “buy money” lost much of the cash they submitted to play but on several occasions made several hundred dollars in profit, court records show.
Around 620 internet cafes closed last year in neighbouring North Carolina following a clampdown by state officials. In a deal between the state and companies that supplied gaming software to hundreds of North Carolina-based Internet cafes, it was agreed that the state would not prosecute those firms that stopped supplying the software as of July 1, 2015.