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UPDATE: Search warrant served at local businesses as part of multi-county investigation

MARYSVILLE — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton, and Marysville Police Chief Floyd Golden announced Thursday a multi-jurisdictional Internet café investigation spanning seven Ohio counties, including Logan County.

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A handwritten ‘closed’ sign is taped today to the front door of Belle Phone Internet Cafe, 1850 S. Main St. The business is among several Internet cafes that are the subject of a multi-county illegal gambling investigation. (EXAMINER PHOTO | NATE SMITH)

Search warrants were served Thursday at the following locations as a result of the work of investigators with the Union County Multi Agency Drug Enforcement Task Force, or MADE:

• Sweepstakes Café, 1850 S. Main St., Bellefontaine.

• Comfort Inn, 260 Northview Dr., Bellefontaine.

• Sweepstakes Café, 977 E. Columbus St., Kenton.

• Internet Café, 416 S. Main St., Kenton.

• Sweepstakes Café, 302 E. Fifth St., Marysville.

• Games People Play, 15570 U.S. Route 36, Marysville.

• Sweepstakes Café, 1524 Michigan St., Sidney.

• Sweepstakes Café, 421 S. Breil Blvd., Middletown.

• Private residence, 5610 Riverside Dr., Dublin.

• Citizens National Bank, 9700 Springboro Pike, Miamisburg.

In Bellefontaine, officers with the Bellefontaine Police Department and deputies with the Logan County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the execution of the search warrants.

No arrests were planned as a result of Thursday’s search warrants, however charges could be filed in the future.

“We are still in the beginning stages of what we expect to be a very lengthy investigation,” Attorney General DeWine said in a release. “While it is too early in the investigation to go into specifics, we do believe the alleged criminal activity at these locations goes beyond illegal gambling.”

The investigation began in Marysville last year and then expanded into the other cities.

“The activity at these sweepstakes or Internet cafés has been a concern for some time,” Chief Golden said. “Our investigation began with one local Internet café and a skill game establishment, but then grew as it became obvious this same activity was occurring at multiple businesses across several jurisdictions.”

“We need to protect our senior citizens in Union and the other affected counties from establishments that entice them to participate in alleged illegal gambling,” Sheriff Jamie Patton said.

Officials expected to seize multiple gambling machines, as well as financial and other records from the businesses and individuals named in the warrants.

The investigation involves alleged violations of Ohio’s gambling laws, as well as allegations of illegal bingo, money laundering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Upon completion of the investigation, the MADE Task Force expects to present multiple cases to a Union County Grand Jury.

“This is a very complex case with a great deal of evidence to be processed and analyzed,” said Union County Prosecutor David W. Phillips. “The computer evidence and many financial records must be examined.”

“We will move forward when the grand jury case is complete.”

Authorities with the following agencies are also assisting with the case: Butler County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Hardin County Sheriff’s Office, Kenton Police Department, Middletown Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Sidney Police Department.

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