CLEVELAND -- Cuyahoga County prosecutors announced on Wednesday the indictment of 10 defendants and seven companies involved in illegal internet sweepstakes cafes in Northeast Ohio.
The arrests are the culmination of an eight-month undercover joint investigation, conducted by prosecutors, the FBI and local police. Investigators say the scheme was complex. Vendors from a company by the name of VS2 based in New Jersey would find local bars and internet cafes to place these illegal gaming systems, then rake in millions of unregulated cash.
The defendants include George Georgekopoulos, 37, of Hinckley, Pete Georgekopoulos, 39, of Stow, Christos Karasarides, Jr., 46, of Canton, Christopher Maggiore, 46, of Canton, James Watson, 61, of Canton, Martin Srcyk, 61, of North Royalton and Neil Sarcyk, 25, of Parma Heights.
“They're the ones who were making all the money, getting 25-percent of the proceeds that were generated. But these individuals down below were selling and helped marketing these machines to establishments in their county,” said Cuyahoga Prosecutor Bill Mason.
Two establishments involved in the investigation are Good Times Charlie’s II and Mr. B’s both operating in Parma Heights. Back in January, investigators went in and confiscated about 80 gambling machines. Investigators say many business owners may not have known the internet sweepstakes machines were illegal. And they say it’s almost always the gamblers being ripped off, to the tune of millions of dollars.
The owners of the internet cafes have not been arrested, and they are still in operation. But prosecutor Mason says they have now been put on alert, and if caught with these illegal gaming systems in the future, they will be arrested and shutdown.