A Statesboro man arrested Tuesday is connected to a statewide roundup involving alleged racketeering and illegal gambling charges.
A civil action forfeiture filed Tuesday by the Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office and District Attorney David Cooke lists Nitalkumar J. Raval, 39, of Timberline Drive, as well as Rincon man Manoj J. Patel, 47, previously of Statesboro, in the long lists of defendants in the action. Eight Statesboro stores and one in Sylvania are also listed in the civil action, which includes businesses in numerous towns across the state.
Raval was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 5 office Tuesday on an outstanding warrant from Bibb County. A Bibb County Sheriff’s Office public relations officer said the charge against Raval is violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Both Raval and Patel have been arrested in Bulloch County on similar charges in the past.
The Statesboro Herald reported in 2009 that Raval, who lived at a Moss Creek Circle address at the time, was charged with obstruction and keeping a gambling place. He was arrested after a former Bulloch County sheriff’s investigator questioned him about a business connection with Patel, who lived at a Circle Drive address at the time. Patel was charged then with commercial gambling and keeping a gambling facility. Patel was discovered to have been making illegal gambling payouts to customers who won on illegal electronic video poker and slot machines.
During the 2009 investigation, Raval owned the Motor Mate convenience store on Highway 24 across from Mill Creek Park. He had the gambling machines there, but when he received a letter of warning from Bulloch County commissioners to remove the machines or lose his alcohol license, he claimed to have sent them to another city. However, it was discovered that he retained them in his garage, and then at a neighbor’s home. He admitted to having allowed “at least one person” to use the machines while in his garage.
Bank accounts, cars, property seized
Stores involved in the Bibb County civil action forfeiture include APMM Corporation on Ogeechee Street in Sylvania and the following eight Statesboro stores: DN12 Inc. on Highway 80 East, Jay Hari Inc. (Jay Food Mart) on Kyle Sorrell Road, OM and EVA Inc. on Highway 301 South, REEMA Inc. (Dixie Food Store) on Northside Drive East, RUDRA KRUPA Inc. (OK Food Mart) on Northside Drive East, Saishri Minimart Inc. (Himan Mini Mart) on Highway 301 South, SDN 134 Inc. (Al’s Convenience Store) on Highway 301 South, and YOGH YASH Inc. (Buddy’s Truck Stop) on Highway 301 South.
The document states “United States currency, inventory, equipment and personal property” located at S&W Amusements Inc. on 301 South, as well as vehicles belonging to Patel and Raval, were seized. Raval’s vehicles included a 2019 Lamborghini Urus MP, a 2019 BMW X7, a 2018 Ferrari and a 2017 GMC Sierra.
Patel’s vehicles that were seized included 2015, 2018 and 2019 BMW X5s.
The civil action forfeiture also listed several bank accounts as being confiscated — accounts under Patel’s name at Ameris and Wells Fargo, as well as joint accounts at each bank. A safe deposit box at Heritage Bank was also seized.
Raval also had bank accounts seized at BB&T, and an account listed with S&W Amusements was also listed at BB&T. It was unclear who owns S&W Amusements.
Bulloch listed as a “hub”
release about the civil action forfeiture spoke of the “multi-jurisdictional racketeering enterprise that profited from tax evasion, money laundering, public
corruption and illegal gambling. Several individuals also were charged with
racketeering, including a Bibb County sheriff’s deputy.”
Further arrests are expected as the investigation unfolds.
Statesboro Region 5 Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge John Durden was unable to be reached for comment about Raval’s arrest Thursday.
The civil forfeiture action names gambling master license holders S&W Amusement Inc., Booray Group LLC, Krishna Amusement Inc. and PNP Amusement Games LLC as defendants.
“These defendants own more than 400 gambling machines at about 70 purportedly legitimate business locations throughout the state, although the hubs are located in Bibb, Bulloch and Chatham counties,” Cooke said. “The complaint also names about 100 other defendants including store owners and others.”
According to the release, defendants allegedly “willingly failed to pay taxes on the more than $39 million in profit they derived from the illegal operation of video gambling machines in 2017 and 2018. Customers gambled more than $121 million on these machines during the same time period and received $82 million in cash and prizes.”
An investigation revealed the company stakeholders and convenience store owners “laundered gambling profits by improperly funneling millions of dollars through the trusts without paying required taxes,” he said. “The license holders also set up ‘straw men’ store locations as mere storefronts established for illegally operating the machines.”
This enabled the license holders to keep all the gambling proceeds instead of sharing them with store owners, as mandated by state law, he said.
“What should have been the store locations’ share of the proceeds was not reported by the license holders for tax purposes.”
Not only did the stores make illegal cash payouts and fail to pay more than $4.4 million in sales and use taxes on winnings, they “also accepted monetary inducement,” he said. “These inducements were paid by license holders to entice store locations to place their machines in the stores. The stores didn’t report the inducements as income.”
The investigation also uncovered evidence of bribery and public corruption, he said.
Bibb County deputy Rahim Jamal McCarley owns one of three stores in Bibb County where officers served search warrants Tuesday.
“Officers have evidence McCarley, 23, of Macon, participated in the bribery, tax evasion and money laundering scheme that pocketed nearly a half-million dollars in profits from illegal gambling in his store in a little more than a year.”
Additionally, the investigation has shown that license holders paid bribes to a state government agency employee in return for information and influence.
Racketeering charges were also filed Tuesday against Bhunica Ambu, 31, of Savannah, and Zankhana Patel, 31, of Rincon. Additional arrests are expected, he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.