CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio- The FOX 8 I-Team has learned that eight people and two corporations have been indicted on dozens of charges as part of what investigators consider a crime ring distributing illegal slot machines throughout Northeast Ohio.
The Ohio Investigative Unit for the Department of Public Safety led the investigation. Agent-in-Charge Greg Croft tells FOX 8 the operation raked in millions of dollars and one suspect even impersonated a police officer to intimidate a competitor.
“For years, the manufacturers and distributors of gambling devices, including those known as the “Puzzle Bug,” have attempted to manipulate the criminal justice system while expanding their lucrative enterprises,” Croft said in a press release. “Members of this criminal enterprise went as far as impersonating peace officers in order to strong arm competing illegal gambling operations. It clearly shows the lengths these subjects will go to further their criminal activities.”
The charges include gambling, money laundering, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and conspiracy.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said the defendants named in the 159-count indictment are:
- Paul Lakuza, 29, of Painesville;
- Robert Valore, 38, of Cleveland;
- Walter Lakuza, 74, of Concord;
- Richard Johnson, 63, of Wooster;
- Michael Lakuza, 31, of Madison;
- Scott Lakuza, 37, of Painesville;
- Jeffrey White, 61, of Mentor;
- Frank Toreki, 53, of Painesville;
- Silver State Inc. of Wooster, Ohio, owned by Richard Johnson;
- Walter Music and Vending Company, of Mentor, owned by Walter Lakuza.
Investigators say the individuals charged all have ties to the companies.
Prosecutor McGinty said those accused made tens of millions of dollars off the proceeds of the slot machines, which were installed in businesses, mostly bars, across Ohio; but were mainly in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Lake, Ashland and Wayne counties.
Arrests were made Thursday morning by teams of detectives in Cuyahoga, Lake, Wayne and Lorain counties.
Stay with FOX8.com for new details.