Crime

'Crack cocaine of gambling' machines prove costly for Peach County store owners

Gaming Machine Owner Describes How To Play

Butch Foshee, president of the Georgia Music and Amusement Operators Association demonstrates how to play a gaming machine. Similar machines are located in Macon area convenience stores.
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Butch Foshee, president of the Georgia Music and Amusement Operators Association demonstrates how to play a gaming machine. Similar machines are located in Macon area convenience stores.

Having gaming machines in their Peach County convenience store has proved costly for one couple.

Pankaj Patel and his wife, Alkaben, owners of Grub-N-Gas at 201 Moseley Road in Byron, will have to pay $23,000 in restitution to the Georgia Department of Revenue, according to a news release from the Macon Judicial Circuit's District Attorney's Office.

That's in addition to $90,000 forfeited by the Patels in a January 2016 civil racketeering settlement with prosecutors, the release said.

The couple pleaded guilty Monday to gambling offenses during a hearing in Superior Court in Macon, the release said. The Judicial District includes Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties.

Pankaj Patel, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of commercial gambling. He was sentenced to serve five years on probation in addition to paying restitution.

He also is barred from ever again having a coin-operated amusement machine and must pay a $1,000 fine. He was sentenced as a first offender, which means the conviction would come off his record after successful completion of his sentence.

Alkaben Patel, 43, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a gambling device. In addition to paying restitution, she received a year on probation.

An undercover police officer played games on the store’s machines in 2015 and received illegal cash payouts in exchange for winnings, according to evidence that prosecutors would have presented had the case gone to trial, the release said. Winnings can only be legally redeemed for store credit, merchandise, lottery tickets or gas.

“Psychologists have described COAM machines as the crack cocaine of gambling," Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke said in the release. "The destruction they have brought upon Georgia families is immeasurable. Anyone who makes money off another person’s addiction should expect to face the consequences.”

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