CLEVELAND — The owners of two Internet cafes raided two weeks ago in the Cleveland-area have agreed to a plea deal that requires them to testify against others accused of being part of an illegal gambling syndicate.
The raids were part of Attorney General Mike DeWine's new efforts to prosecute what he says are illegal gambling operations.
Police and state agents raided six Internet cafes, seized several bank accounts and executed search warrants issued at a New Jersey company and private residence.
Internet cafe owners Robert Rogers and Terry Fiala were charged along with their software provider, VS2 Worldwide Communications in Farmingdale, New Jersey, and several other operators of Internet cafes or support businesses.
Both men pleaded guilty to misdemeanor gambling charges Wednesday. Felony charges, including racketeering, were dropped, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/10XPpJZ) reported.
"I did not intend to break the law," Rogers said before each man was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
DeWine contends the cafes — which offer slots-like computer games — are illegal gambling parlors. The raids came after the 8th District Court of Appeals ruled that the operations were obvious gambling schemes.
Supporters of the businesses say they are legal and help the economy. At the storefronts, patrons buy cards for phone and Internet time with chances to play computer games that operate like slot machines with cash prizes.
A bill to immediately halt the expansion of Internet cafes statewide cleared the Ohio Senate this week and is headed to the House for the vote.
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com