GBI busts eight Decatur businesses

GBI

Eight warrants served to businesses along Glenwood Road for commercial gambling

Eight gas stations along Glenwood Road in Decatur have been served warrants from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) after the businesses were found to house illegal gambling operations.

According to a release, the Commercial Gambling Unit of the GBI executed warrants at Glenwood Grocery, Big Daddy’s Grocery, Discount Food Mart, Stop N Shop Smoke Shop as well as Citgo, Chevron, Valero and Texaco gas stations in the 3000-4000 blocks of Glenwood Road on Jan. 24.

The warrants resulted in seven arrests with more expected, according to officials.

“[The] locations were served with warrants related to crimes of commercial gambling and monetary assets gained from the illegal use of gaming machines,” reads the release. “All of the locations are currently licensed to operate coin operated amusement machines (COAM). During the course of the investigation, agents discovered customers were receiving cash payouts for winning credits.”

A COAM is defined by law as “any type of machine or device that will automatically provide music or some other type of entertainment when a coin, token or some other object, such as a credit card, is deposited,” according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This includes arcade video games, pinball machines, jukeboxes, pool tables, video poker and slot machines.

Licensed businesses can only reward COAM patrons with store credit, merchandise or lottery tickets, according to the Offical Code of Georgia.

Georgia law prohibits intentionally operating or participating in the earnings of a gambling place; receiving, recording or forwarding bets; gaining or becoming a custodian of anything of value for betting or offering to bet, according to Georgia Code § 16-12-22.

According to arrest reports associated with the warrants, offenders also violated § 16-12-23, which states an individual cannot knowingly permit real estate, building, room, tent, vehicle, boat, or other property owned or under the control of that person to be used as a gambling place.

Asif Farooq, Iqbal Gilani and Mohammad Hassan were arrested under both statutes while Berhan Bezabih, Raj Kammar, Vikash Tripathi and Sintayehu Yilma also face gambling charges.

Officials state it took more than 80 investigators, agents and police officers from the GBI, DeKalb County Police Department, Georgia Department of Revenue and Georgia Lottery Corporation to complete the investigation.
Officials throughout DeKalb County state COAM abuses are a widespread problem.

“Many of our residents reported suspected abuses associated with the improper use of COAMS to include cash payoffs,” said Clarkston City Manager Keith Barker. “Refugee resettlement agency representatives, along with our own police detective division, report that at least two suicides in our community could be linked to money lost playing these machines.”

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