NC businesses seek money taken in FBI sweepstakes raids
Posted August 1, 2014
Kenly, N.C. — Scores of North Carolina businesses say the federal government overreached in a crackdown on Internet gaming, and they have filed petitions seeking to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars seized in a series of sweepstakes parlor raids in the spring.
On May 7, agents with the FBI and the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement cleaned out a sweepstakes parlor that leases space at Big Boy's 66 Truck Stop in Kenly, according to truck stop co-owner Walter Powell Jr.
"A whole band of agents come busting in the doors," Powell said Friday. "They took over. They took the money, all the paper money in the office."
In addition to raiding the sweepstakes parlor, he said, the authorities seized money from Big Boy's – money the Powell family contends had nothing to do with the Internet gaming operation.
The Powells said they did nothing wrong, and along with other raided businesses, they are trying to get their money back.
"We're talking anywhere from $1,300 to hundreds of thousands of dollars," Raleigh lawyer Dan Boyce said, noting 176 businesses were raided in May.
The raids were supposed to be related to Ricky Godwin, Boyce said, adding that his clients had little or nothing to do with him.
Godwin, a sweepstakes game vendor whose Selma businesses also were raided on May 7, supplied a coin-operated game to the truck stop but isn't connected to the gaming parlor there, Boyce said.
"It was overreach," Boyce said. "Not only that, there was the threat of criminal prosecution, which I find to be unbelievable."
No charges have been filed in connection with any of the May raids.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
State lawmakers have tried for years to outlaw video poker and sweepstakes, and the North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the ban. The industry keeps finding ways around the law, however, allowing many sweepstakes parlors to remain open.
The gaming site at Big Boy's is back open on legal advice that the so-called "pre-reveal" software used in its machines complies with the law.
"To me, it's hypocritical," Boyce said.
The Powells also have a hard time accepting that the state-run lottery and the Cherokee casino are allowed to operate freely while their family business was cleaned out.
"The only thing they could have done worse was open the doors and throw flash grenades in," Powell said.