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Gambling Allegations Close Stores
Monday, 08 March 2010

March 8-  Many convenience stores in Toombs and Emanuel counties got early morning visits from law enforcement officers armed with search warrants Monday.

Image City workers from Vidalia and officers from the Vidalia Police Department assisted with the confiscation of the video poker games from various convenience stores in Vidalia.

Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman says the sweep is the result of a nine-month undercover investigation which found the stores were operating video poker gambling machines.

"We had 20 locations in Toombs County and nine locations in Emanuel County.  We had over 140 officers involved so we could hit them all at the same time for purposes of making sure we could obtain the information we needed.  These were search warrants designed to obtain information.  Arrest warrants will be issued once we get the identity information for the individuals involved," Altman said.

The District Attorney says the raid is the largest raid on illegal gambling ever conducted in the five-county Middle Judicial Circuit and is a result of citizen complaints.

"We received numerous complaints from citizens in Toombs and Emanuel counties, especially from spouses who said their husbands or wives were addicted to these machines.  They would get their paychecks on Friday and go to these stores and gamble their paychecks away.  We also got just regular citizens who'd walk up to me and say, 'Mr. Altman, you've go to do something about these machines because they're just killing the community,' he reported.

The machines were confiscated and taken to a storage warehouse in Swainsboro.  Altman says operators who are charged will be charged with commercial gambling and violation of the racketeering act.  He also says it could be a few days before the stores can re-open.

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