State cracks down on illegal gambling

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Arizona's new attorney general is cracking down on illegal gambling, making it one of his first orders of business.

Local and state agencies served warrants at six locations Tuesday in connection with a suspected gambling operation.

They raided three businesses: the Mouse Pad Internet Cafe near 35th and Northern avenues, the Barber Shop Internet Cafe near 15th Avenue and Indian School Road, and offices near 19th Avenue and Pinnacle Peak Road.

Agents also raided a home near Seventh Street and New River Road, a home near 19th Avenue and Happy Valley Road, and a storage facility near the Interstate 17 and Bell Road.

"They've always talked to me, you know, but I just tell them, 'No, I'm not interested,' " said Kenneth Stanford, who works near the Barber Shop Internet Cafe.

The shop was busted for suspected illegal gaming operations. Stanford claims customers have repeatedly tried to coax him to come in and play.

"They just try to, you know, 'Come on in,' you know, 'You're going to be a winner,' you know. They try to give you a few free coins," he said.

During the raids, agents seized gambling devices, computers, TVs, weapons, surveillance equipment, vehicles and more than $20,000 in cash. Investigators said the evidence indicates the operation of an illegal enterprise, money laundering, and violations of gambling statutes.

"In this instance, they tried to pass off, essentially, computers as being operated in conjunction with a quote-on-quote sweepstakes," Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said at a press conference.

The attorney general's office served a simultaneous seizure warrant for assets and froze bank accounts believed to be associated with the operation.

Investigators said this is the second time owner Eric Stelljes has faced allegations of gambling violations in Arizona.

“We want to send a clear message to the operators of these shops that they are on our radar,” Brnovich said in a statement. “They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

As the former director of the Arizona Department of Gaming, Brnovich says his office will not tolerate this type of illegal activity and warns that although no arrests have been made in these cases yet, there will be.

"If you are a criminal intent on breaking our state gambling laws, this is not a very good time to be doing it," he said.

To report suspected illegal gambling, contact your local police department or the Arizona Department of Gaming at 602-255-3888.