Durham, N.C. — 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.