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Ohio AG unit raids Internet cafes, search warrants executed

3:06 AM, Apr 18, 2013   |    comments
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COLUMBUS -- Early Wednesday afternoon, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty were in Euclid and announced the execution of six search warrants on six separate internet cafes that are currently open and operating illegally in Cuyahoga County.

Three are owned by VS2 Software, the company that supplies the Video Lottery Terminals.

Police, the Ohio Highway Patrol and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's office have seized 352 VLTs, executed search warrants at two DS2 locations in New Jersey, and also at VS2 President Bill Cornick's home.

Several bank accounts were also seized within the operation.

Two of the Internet cafes involved were Players Club on Euclid Avenue in Euclid and the Collinwood Cyber Cafe on Lakeshore Boulevard in Collinwood.

In all, there were two raided in Westlake, two in Euclid and two in Cleveland.

McGinty said it was his intention to put all illegal internet cafes in the county out of business.

"The party's over. We plan on marching them to jail," McGinty said.

DeWine added that "It's the wild, wild West."

Michael Nelson, attorney for some of the six Cuyahoga County Internet cafes, tells Beres that  "is overstepping his authority.. and is nothing more than a front man for the Ohio casino industry."

Dan Gilbert's Rock Gaming owns Cleveland Horseshoe Casino locally.

Casinos have been backing legislation in the Ohio legislature to outlaw Internet cafes. The legislation has passed the House and is now in the Senate.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol released a statement mid-afternoon Wednesday.

OSHP said there were raids "...on eight internet gambling locations in Cuyahoga County today....The raids are the result of a case investigation that began in August 2011, by OIU enforcement agents where liquor establishments were operating illegal gaming machines. In the state of Ohio, liquor permit premises are prohibited from operating illegal gaming. OIU also provides law enforcement assistance and expertise in non-permit establishments when requested."

"The locations of the search warrants included: Crystal Sports Bar, 3357-3359 Fulton Road. and Collinwood Sweepstakes Café, 15624 Lakeshore Boulevard, both in Cleveland; Loco Leprechaun, 24545 Center Ridge Road and Infinity 2, 30670 Detroit Road, both in Westlake; and Emerald Isle, 22574 Lakeshore Boulevard and Players Club, 26193 Euclid Avenue, both in Euclid."

"Administrative charges were also filed against the Crystal Sports Bar and Loco Leprechaun liquor permits for illegal gambling violations."

DeWine has created an internal unit to help police officers and prosecutors investigate illegal gambling at storefront gambling-like operations known as Internet cafes.

Beres will bring you more on this story later Wednesday.

Wednesday's sweep is a collaborative investigation by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office working in connection with the Ohio Attorney General's Office,  Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Ohio Investigative Unit of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, Parma Heights Police Department, and several law enforcement agencies in the state of New Jersey .

DeWine, long a critic of the businesses' operations and their lack of regulation, says a recent state appeals court decision made it clear the cafes are conducting illegal gambling.

DeWine said at an earlier news conference Wednesday to once again press lawmakers to pass a bill regulating the cafes, calling the approach he's been forced to take "the hard way."

The cafes' status has been the subject of intense lobbying in Columbus, with the Ohio House voting last month to approve a crackdown on the operations.

Backers of the cafes say they are legal and help the economy.

WKYC-TV/Associated Press

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