GBI agents investigate alleged illegal gambling Columbus, LaGran - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

GBI agents investigate alleged illegal gambling Columbus, LaGrange

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Three local businesses are now under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation after a statewide sting on illegal gambling.

GBI agents filled Big Dawg Calling Cards on Tuesday afternoon in Columbus and LaGrange.

Computers, money, and documents were seized from the businesses after agents say the businesses were not following all of the guidelines in Georgia law for promotional sweepstakes.

News Release from GBI:

Decatur, Ga. - On Tuesday March 13th, 2012, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agents along with the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office executed search warrants at seven businesses in the State of Georgia. The business identified as Big Dawg Calling Cards was owned and operated by James Edward Kokott age 63. Kokott, along with two employees, James Clemmons age 47 and Marilyn Clemmons age 49, were indicted in DeKalb County for Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

These indictments culminated a seven month long undercover investigation by members of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office. The businesses would advertise the selling of telephone calling cards for the chance to enter into a sweepstakes. Once someone entered the sweepstakes they would be allowed to play a number of casino type games on a touchscreen computer. A customer could win or lose their sweepstakes points based on the outcome of the game. At the conclusion of the game the customer could opt to cash out and receive a cash payment.    

A total of 43 GBI Agents and 20 local officers assisted in the execution of the search warrants.   

Locations of Warrants:

  1. 5979 Buford Highway Doraville, DeKalb County Big Dawgs
  2. 7214 Douglas Blvd Douglasville, Douglas County Big Dawgs
  3. 1509-C Old Covington Hwy Conyers, Rockdale County Big Dawgs
  4. 2170 West Point Rd Lagrange, Troup County Big Dawgs
  5. 1901 Manchester Expressway, Columbus, Muscogee County Big Dawgs
  6. 1915 S. Lumpkin Rd Columbus, Muscogee County Big Dawgs
  7. 1125 Broad Ave Albany, Dougherty County Big Dawgs
  8. 1209 16th Ave B Columbus Muscogee, County Kokott's residence

Total seizures:

  1. 53 Brand New CPU's still in the box (Muscogee County Location).
  2. 18 CPU's (2-3 taken from each location) (1 gaming machine and controlling server at each location).
  3. Misc. Documentation to include bank records, Tel-Connect cards and misc. information showing business ownership.
  4. Cash seizures totaled approximately $20,500.00 in US Currency (all sites included).
  5. 3 handguns seized one at South Lumpkin Road location and two at Kokott's residence.  

James Kokott was arrested at 1509-C Old Covington Highway Conyers, Rockdale County. Kokott is being held in the DeKalb County Jail without Bond (Note: Kokott requested an attorney upon his arrest).

At the time of this press release, James Clemmons and Marilyn Clemmons have not been arrested and are currently wanted by the GBI. If anyone knows the whereabouts of James or Marilyn Clemmons, please contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at 770-830-1375 or the GBI Tip Line at 1-800-597-8477.

In addition to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the DeKalb County DA's Office, also involved in the execution of the search warrants were the Columbus Police Department's Special Operations Unit, LaGrange Police, and the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit.

This investigation is a continuation of Governor Nathan Deal's initiative to crack down on illegal gambling parlors proliferating throughout Georgia.

The GBI West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office is located in Carrollton, Georgia and services 22 counties. The office is comprised of members from the GBI, Carrollton PD., Villa Rica P.D., Bowden P.D., Lagrange P.D., Atlanta P.D., Fulton County P.D., Carroll County S.O., Meriwether County S.O. and Heard County S.O.

 

One after another agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations carry about 50 brand new computers from Big Dawg Calling Cards off Manchester Expressway in Columbus.

After a seven month undercover investigation stemming out of DeKalb County, officials say about 43 GBI agents served search warrants to seven Big Dawg Calling Cards across Georgia including two in Columbus and one in LaGrange.

Columbus Police Special Operations also aided with the search of the businesses.

"We have no legal order to close them down.  We've taken some computers to out of the facilities, the server computers which is probably going to make it impossible for them to come in and play the sweepstakes games.  When we leave the facility, we will lock it up and turn the key over.  We'll actually keep the key in our evidence room," said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Joe Chesnut with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

Chesnut says the business sells cards that people can use to make long distance calls.  However, in an indictment for the business owner and two other employees, officials say customers were told they must play sweepstakes in order to purchase a calling card and could possibly win cash prizes.

"There are some provisions in Georgia that allow for cash prizes in promotion sweepstakes but there's a number of provisions that must be met and in order to do that you must meet all of them," said Chesnut.

The indictment states that the business did not meet all those provisions saying Big Dawg Calling Cards is "not making ‘good faith' effort to advertise the businesses products or services."

The document goes on to say, "unlike promotional sweepstakes, which are held only for a limited time, the Big Dawg internet café sweepstakes run in perpetuity."  Finally, officials say the business gets almost its entire revenue through the sweepstakes and their customers.

Officials say the owner of store, James Edaward Kokott, turned himself into authorities on Tuesday in Rockdale County at 4:30 pm.  GBI officials say they are still actively looking for James and Marilyn Clemmons for helping Kokott open and operate the seven stores.

The indictment says they were involved in commercial gambling, acts of gambling and bank records fraud.  The indictment says that "although the illegal gambling is promoted as a ‘sweepstakes,' the activities do not fall within the sweepstakes exception." 

As for customers in the store, Chesnut says they may be asked to help in the case.

"We talked to several of the people in here.  We got their names and addresses.  They could possibly be called back to court as witnesses.  No charges are pending against them at this time, and I don't anticipate any charges against them"

Agents say the statewide operation is part of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal direction to GBI agents to crack down on illegal gambling. 

Copyright 2012 WTVM. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly