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Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 4, April 2014, Posted On: 4/7/2014

Florida Law Enforcement Raid Internet Cafés -- Again

Nick Montano
TAGS: sweepstakes cafe, Internet cafe, Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Illegal Gaming Task Force, Ivan Vega, Peter Miller, sweepstakes cafe raid, Florida gambling bust, Willie Meggs, Pam Bondi

TALLAHASSEE, FL -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Illegal Gaming Task Force served search warrants on April 3 in five Florida counties, targeting Internet cafés allegedly owned by Ivan Vega and Peter Miller. According to enforcement officials, the warrants represent a continuing crackdown on the illegal gambling locations known as Internet or sweepstakes cafés.

Vega was also arrested on a warrant from an earlier investigation conducted by State Attorney Willie Meggs of the 2nd Judicial Circuit. In that case, he was charged with keeping a gambling house, manufacture, sale, possession of coin-operated devices, lottery and plays at games of chance.

The recently raided locations opened for business after massive raids last spring on 49 similar locations operating under the name Allied Veterans of the World. In those raids, 57 people were arrested on racketeering, gambling and money laundering charges. Jacksonville prosecutors named Kelly Mathis as the mastermind of those locations. He has been convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.

"These warrants are a key step in investigating organizations claiming to be Internet cafés but actually conduct illegal gaming," said Attorney General Pam Bondi. "My Office of Statewide Prosecution will continue to collaborate with law enforcement on these cases."

Search warrants were executed in Duval, Columbia, Marion, Brevard and Lake counties. During the execution of warrants, gaming taskforce investigators seized computers, cash related to the illegal activity, and banking and employee records.

"These warrants will likely lead to the arrests of key figures within these organizations for racketeering and money laundering," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "This is a warning to other so-called Internet café operators. If you operate outside the law, you are a target."

Members of the illegal gaming taskforce include FDLE agents, Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger, Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson and the Office of Statewide Prosecution.

"This is a statewide issue that demands a strong, unified law enforcement response. And that's exactly what this taskforce is delivering," said Johnson. "Businesses in Florida have been given ample warnings that Internet cafés are illegal. The takeaway from today's actions is that we're simply not going to put up with businesses that continue to defy the laws of this state."

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