Crime tape surrounds 11 closed Laurens County businesses following raids that resulted in the seizure of 39 gambling machines and 20 pending arrests.
Laurens County Sheriff W.A. Harrell and District Attorney Craig Fraser launched Operation Game Over in August after receiving complaints from the community.
Investigators and informants gathered information that led to the serving of 22 search warrants at Laurens County businesses and homes Monday, according to a news release.
Some of the homes were searched because video gambling machines spotted by undercover officers were missing when the businesses were raided. Evidence led authorities to homes where they found the machines, Fraser said.
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Multiple vehicles, a dozen firearms, 3.5 ounces of marijuana and $73,000 were seized during the raids, besides the gambling machines.
About 20 arrests are pending on charges of keeping a gambling place, commercial gambling and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. One person already has been arrested on drug and weapon charges, according to the release.
Fraser said the businesses that were raided were shut down, and they remained closed Tuesday, with deputies keeping watch.
A list of the businesses has not been released.
It’s unclear when or if the businesses will reopen, he said.
“Gambling is illegal and will not be tolerated,” Fraser said.
Paying out gambling winnings in cash or lottery tickets is illegal in Georgia.
Harrell said he hopes the raids will be positive for the community and that other Georgia counties also will crack down on illegal gambling.
Some of the businesses were involved in a similar 2007 raid targeting illegal gambling, Fraser said.
Operation Game Over is ongoing. Authorities are reviewing bank accounts and determining how far the illegal activity reaches. There’s still potential for more raids, he said.
The GBI and U.S. Marshal’s Service assisted in the operation.
Fraser said two attorneys from Atlanta have been named special prosecutors to help handle forfeitures related to the raids.
The announcement of the Laurens County raids comes on the heels of the seizure of 47 gambling machines in Baldwin County on Monday.
Deputies obtained 63 arrest warrants for 16 people on felony and misdemeanor gambling charges.
Stores raided in Baldwin County remained open Monday and Tuesday.
Messages left at six of the raided stores were not returned. The owner of one store said he was disappointed and declined to comment further.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.