WARREN - Seven people were charged with running three illegal gambling operations in the city stemming from raids conducted in March. The attorney for two men who turned themselves in Wednesday claims the businesses operate within the law.
Charges of operating a gambling house, a first-degree misdemeanor, were filed Tuesday against the owners of the three Internet cafes in Warren - the Players Club, 2700 Mahoning Ave., Lot$-A-Loot, 2004 North Road S.E., and Lucky Charms, 2001 Southern Blvd.
Charged were Lucky Charms operators Ingo C. Schlaf, 54, 14306 Woodlawn Drive, Newbury, Travis L. Bailey, 35, 14762 Brookwood Drive, Newbury, and Jennifer J. Bailey, 31, 14562 Laurel Drive, Newbury; Lot$-A-Loot operators Miracle Petrino, 40, 821 Fairfield Drive, Boardman, and Mandi C. Bero, 33, 6400 Duncan Drive, Poland; and Player's Club operators David L. Miner, 69, 2296 Parkman Road N.W., and Robert Dabish, 36, 13127 Common Road, Warren, Mich.
The seven face a maximum punishment of up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Miner, who also has a Toledo address, and Dabish each pleaded not guilty Wednesday at their arraignment in front of Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas P. Gysegem. Each were released on a $2,500 personal recognizance bond.
Warren assistant Law Director Traci Timko Mendenhall said others charged were being served warrants and could be arraigned as early as today.
Attorney Dennis DiMartino, who is representing Miner and Dabish with Samuel Amendolara, said Wednesday his clients were always up front with the city, who approved their business.
"The law is pretty clear cut," DiMartino said. "Our clients had fully disclosed their course of actions and their operations and from the beginning made things crystal clear. The city approved the business after they put hundreds of thousands of dollars into it."
DiMartino said Dabish operated a similar Player's Club business in Toledo. The cafe was raided and Dabish was charged, only to be acquitted. Dabish then moved his business to Warren with the city's approval, DiMartino said.
That changed in March when Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins announced that Internet cafes, which have poker or slot machine-style games, are illegal and would not be tolerated in the county the same day authorities raided the three businesses. Those businesses are not regulated and the machines are not checked by any government or independent entity for fairness.
On March 25, agents from the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office, Warren city police, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation raided the three cafes and seized all equipment. The raids were the culmination of investigations started in the fall of 2010.
Affidavits said undercover officers visited and played machines at the businesses in February and March. The undercover officer said in the affidavit that the machines are games of chance and called the Lot$-A-Loot "Moutaineer North," in reference to the Mountaineer Resort in West Virginia, where gambling is legal.
In a typical Internet cafe, customers pay for Internet time or phone cards and use them to bet points on computers loaded with games. Winners can get chase or merchandise prizes, such as canned coffee or car wax. Some sites also offer services, including regular Internet service, food and drinks.