Agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Commercial Gambling Unit arrested four people this week on commercial gambling charges after a raid Oct. 12 in Statesboro.
GBI agents targeted four convenience stores in the raid - the Amoco BP Food Store, 218 North Main Street; the Quick Shop, 301 North Main Street; Maruti Food & Gas, LLC, 17899 US Hwy. 301 North; and Vraj Food Mart #1, 21196 Hwy. 80 East.
Ashwinkumar C. Patel, 55, and his wife, Jyoti Ashwinkumar Patel, 40, both of an East Main Street address, own the Amoco BP Food Store at 218 North Main Street, said GBI Commercial Gambling Unit Special Agent-in-Charge Cindy H. Ledford. Both of them were charged with commercial gambling.
Also arrested on commercial gambling charges were Karan Harivadanbhai Patel, 26. Bradley Boulevard, Savannah, owner of the Quick Shop, 301 North Main Street; and Tejal H. Parikh, 39, Waverly Lane, owner of Vraj Food Mart #1, 21196 Hwy. 80 East.
There have yet been no arrests regarding owners of employees of the Maruti Food & Gas, LLC, 17899 US Hwy. 301 North, according to information supplied by Ledford.
The store owners are accused of paying out cash to customers who win while playing on the “Coin Operated Amusement Machines,” usually located in a back room of the stores. Cash payouts are illegal, she said.
Complaints from the public led GBI agents, assisted by the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office Crime Suppression Team, to investigate the stores.
In cooperation with the Georgia Lottery Corporation and the Georgia Department of Revenue, GBI agents executed search warrants at the stores for violations of Georgia’s commercial gambling laws, she said.
“While searching the locations, agents collected evidence related to crimes of commercial gambling and seized monetary assets gained from the illegal use of gaming machines,” Ledford said.
Georgia law dictates that only store credit or lottery tickets may be awarded for winning games. These stores are currently licensed to operate the “COAM,” (Coin Operated Amusement Machines), but the machines will be removed from the stores and the Georgia Lottery Commission will determine whether the machines, owned by an outside company, will be returned to that owner.
The investigation remains ongoing, she said. The four suspects were taken to the Bulloch County Jail, where they were booked and later released on bind, according to jail records.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.