Cafe owner charged in raid

LIBERTY – The owner of a Belmont Avenue Internet cafe that was raided on suspicion of illegal gambling Friday was cited by police Tuesday.

Township police Capt. Toby Melero said Adam Syed, 30, of Akron, is the owner of the Belmont Sweeps, 3013 Belmont Ave., which was closed after being raided by police Friday morning.

Melero issued a summons to Girard Municipal Court for Syed for the charge of promoting gambling in an establishment. The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor unless the defendant has prior convictions. Melero said Syed has no prior convictions.

Melero said he was able to establish Syed’s identity Tuesday after talking to a former co-owner of the cafe who confirmed that Syed was the owner and also was able to confirm his address.

Also Tuesday, two workers who were cited when police raided the cafe Friday were also arraigned in Girard Municipal Court. Amber Almhaiat, 27, of Warren, and Patricia Micochero, 45, of Tallmadge, were each charged with operating a gambling house, a misdemeanor.

Both are free on $5,000 bond until their next court appearance.

During the raid, cash, documents and 33 machines suspected of being gambling machines were taken by investigators. A gun was also found in the safe but Melero said that gun was used by the business for protection.

Investigators entered the cafe during regular business hours to check complaints that gambling was taking place there before a search warrant was served.

In a typical Internet cafe, customers pay for Internet time with phone cards and use them to bet points on computers loaded with games. Winners can get cash or merchandise prizes, such as canned coffee or car wax.

Some sites also offer services, including regular Internet service, food and drinks.

The difference between illegal establishments and legal ones, prosecutors say, is the amount of cash prizes a customer can win from playing the “sweepstakes” games offered by the businesses and if the games they provide are games of chance, rather than skill-based games.