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Deputies raid two Internet cafes in Durham

Posted May 9, 2013

— Durham County sheriff’s deputies raided two Internet sweepstakes cafés Thursday, seizing dozens of computers and thousands of dollars in cash.

Big Pay Day on Guess Road and EZ Biz Sweepstakes on North Roxboro Road were targeted after an undercover investigation determined they were operating illegally, Sheriff Mike Andrews said.

At Big Pay Day, deputies seized 26 computers and more than $5,500. Five unidentified customers were cited for misdemeanor gambling and released.

At EZ Biz Sweepstakes, 44 computers and more than $1,900 were seized. Six unidentified customers were cited for misdemeanor gambling and released. The café manager also was cited with misdemeanor operating a server-based electronic game promotion.

Both cafes are owned by Erik Mac Lohela, 44, and Hoa Thi Lohela, 40, both of the 900 block of Lystra Lane in Chapel Hill. Hoa Lohela was in Big Pay Day during the raid and was cited for misdemeanor promoting, operating or conducting a server-based electronic game promotion.

Erik Lohela was not at either café. Investigators said his arrest is pending.

Video sweepstakes games were outlawed by the state in 2010. In December, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the ban, and many counties have been cracking down on the electronic gambling parlors.

“The process of investigating sweepstakes cafes is no easy task,” Andrews said in a statement. “I support and admire the hard work and dedication that my deputies are putting forth to ensure the laws related to Internet-based gambling are fairly and effectively enforced in Durham County.

In April, deputies raided the H&S Internet Café, seizing 108 computers and about $2,500. Maj. Paul Martin, head of the sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Division, said many of Durham’s illegal sweepstakes cafes closed after that.

“Some of them, however, like the two cafes deputies raided this afternoon, have continued to operate illegally – and that won’t be tolerated in Durham County,” he said in a statement.

Martin said deputies will continue undercover work to shut down illegal gaming sites.

“Customers at these establishments must also be aware that they too will be charged if deputies find them gambling in these cafes,” he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • superman May 10, 2013

    The state is the only place you can buy alcohol or gamble. They should add to their forte and I have a suggestion for them.

  • JohnnyMcRonny May 10, 2013

    Meanwhile, in other businesses and private premises all across the state, thousands of people gamble openly and legally on the stock market. Hypocritical beyond belief.

  • WRAL_USER May 10, 2013

    I completely understand that the laws must be enforced but FTkid is correct. In the end, if found NG or not illegal what then? Who covers the losses? This is an prob an UNJUST act by the DPD (as usual) to try and "run them out of town"... Shameful and prob illegal... The DPD can just come by your home, charge you with a crime and let the courts "sort it out" while you sit in jail for nothing... all perfectly legal by their standards... fear the system!!!!

  • fivetoolkid May 10, 2013

    The software being used at the locations in NC right now was not even created until after the NCGA wrote the statute that is being enforced- simply put- the new software hasnt been proven illegal- in fact in Catawba County last month a case was brought and the worker was found "NOT GUILTY" - its quite simple, but as I have said before- the gvt is punishing the businesses by closing them down- 6 months from now this place is found "not guilty" then they get the equip back, but guess what- they have lost thousands of dollars in lost revenue - do they get that back- of course not- it is wrong and unjust. The software has changed, the law has not- how can it be illegal if its brand new and does not violate the statute as its written??? The city attorney for Roanoke Rapids wrote an opinion that the software did not violate the statute? Thats why the old Parton Theatre is wide open right now- we are all in NC- we should all be following same rules.

  • superflames May 10, 2013

    I drive by these two places most days in my work. They seemed fairly obvious to me what they were. I find it intriguing that it takes an intense undercover super-spy law enforcement operation to shut it down. There must be a whole lot more to it than I'm aware.

  • Alexia.1 May 10, 2013

    The officers shouldn't have cited the customers. Who can say they knew the games were not legal? It just makes their lives more difficult.

  • thepeopleschamp May 9, 2013

    "Wow! Thanks for putting your lives on the line every single day and keeping us safe from these dangerous criminals." Hans

    Why not whine about the law makers instead? Unless this is a jealously thing.

  • liquidsatin5702 May 9, 2013

    "during the raid and was cited for misdemeanor promoting, operating or conducting a server-based electronic game promotion"

    Hurry, hide your World of Warcraft accounts!

    While I normally fully support LEO's and the tough job they have, this is a case of the politicians screwing the pooch. Having lived in Durham for over 20 years, I am confused why this take priority. Must be taking money out of the pockets of those hardworking crack dealers.

  • cbr1219 May 9, 2013

    TAX IT!!! This state needs the REVENUE!

  • bigDC May 9, 2013

    Sweepstakes store off Rock Quarry Road next to the Dollar General is still open. Please come and close it.