Phoenix - The Attorney General’s Office teamed up with the Arizona Department of Gaming, the Phoenix Police Department and the Department of Public Safety to stop illegal gambling at establishments known as sweepstakes cafes. These cafes pose as coffee shops offering Internet access but they are a disguise for illegal gambling operations.
The investigation began when the Arizona Department of Gaming learned of multiple sweepstakes cafés where gambling was allegedly taking place. Undercover agents were dispatched to confirm that customers were gambling, although, not all knew they were engaging in illegal activity.
On January 13th, the agencies served warrants at six locations in connection with the suspected gambling operation including three businesses: The Mouse Pad Internet Café at 3593 West Northern Ave Phoenix, AZ, The Barber Shop Internet Café at 1520 West Indian School #3 Phoenix, AZ and offices at 23335 North 18th Drive #112 Phoenix, AZ; two residences at 42315 N. 7th St Phoenix, AZ and 518 West Briles Road Phoenix, AZ; and a storage facility at 17201 North Black Canyon Highway #15 Phoenix, AZ.
Agents seized 21 weapons, 50 gambling devices, computers, televisions, three vehicles, two trailers, six ATV’s, and two motorcycles. They also confiscated approximately $20,000 in cash. The Attorney General’s Office served a simultaneous seizure warrant for assets and froze bank accounts associated with the operation.
Felony charges on warrants include: fraudulent scheme, conducting an illegal enterprise, and promotion of gambling. Misdemeanor charges include: benefiting from gambling and possession of gambling devices.
This is the second time suspected owner Eric Stelljes has faced allegations of gambling violations in Arizona. Stelljes is already on pre-trial release and other charges will follow.
“We want to send a clear message to the operators of these shops that they are on our radar,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
All charges are allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The investigation is ongoing. No arrests have been made.
“Dismantling unlawful gambling enterprises is a priority for this administration,” added Dan Bergin, Director of the Arizona Department of Gaming. “We will continue to work with our sister law enforcement agencies and prosecutorial authorities to protect our cities.”
To report suspected illegal gambling, contact your local police department or the Arizona Department of Gaming at 602-255-3888. For more information, contact the Attorney General's Office at (602) 542-5025.