Three face indictments connected to illegal sweepstakes parlors
Posted January 8
Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County grand jury indicted three men Tuesday on charges of gambling in connection with them allegedly operating illegal sweepstakes machines, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Wednesday.
The indictments against Chi Hun Kim, Arken Elhicheri and Waheeda Ammeri come as law enforcement authorities in Wake County have stepped up efforts to shut down sweepstakes cafes since December 2012, when the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a 2010 state law banning the establishments.
Kim runs Treasure Sweepstakes at 3689 New Bern Ave. while Elhicheri and Ammeri operate Lucky 22 at 7440 Louisburg Road – both in Raleigh – authorities said.
Warrants for their arrests have not yet been served.
Since the state Supreme Court ruling, some counties have made strides in shutting down parlors, but mixed rulings on related charges in lower courts prompted other counties to wait before enforcing the law.
Willoughby instructed Wake County authorities in April to start enforcing the ban, and in June, the Wake County Sheriff's Office sent an undercover investigator to the businesses, said Sheriff Donnie Harrison.
"We started our investigation. We took it slowly," Harrison said. "We wanted to make sure we were right."
Authorities in Cumberland, Harnett and Durham counties were among the first in the state to begin enforcing the ban since the state Supreme Court ruling.
Willoughby said Wake investigators have been working hard behind the scenes and that more indictments involving other businesses are likely.
"It is the law. The legislature decides what is and is not illegal," he said. "If they determine something is illegal, then we try to take efforts to enforce the laws as they pass them."
Sweepstakes cafes, which allow people to play fast-moving computer games that mimic Vegas-style slots, became popular in North Carolina after the General Assembly banned stand-alone video poker games in 2006.
Proponents say participating in a sweepstakes is no different than a game offered by a fast-food restaurant. Opponents, however, complain such venues attract trouble and crime.