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A multi-agency law enforcement operation Friday resulted in the seizure of a number of alleged illegal gambling machines from a dozen Corsicana convenience stores - part of a larger investigation that also resulted in the arrest of senior executives by state law enforcement officers in Haltom City.
Corsicana Police, assisted by the Navarro County Sheriff's Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Navarro County District Attorney's office served a dozen search warrants Friday morning at convenience stores throughout Corsicana.
Police Chief Randy Bratton said the effort was part of a 13-month long investigation into the alleged illegal devices, and required coordination of several agencies in order to execute the warrants simultaneously at all 12 locations, which was performed "without incident" Bratton said.
“The nature of the investigation is centered upon machines called ‘donate zones,’” Bratton said. “Part of the investigation is called ‘sweepstakes gaming’ and they are considered in the state of Texas an illegal lottery,” he said.
“You don’t put the money in the machine, you deal with the employees in the store, and they have transactions with the customers and store employees,” Bratton explained.
Police, sheriff’s deputies, troopers and District Attorney personnel were spread out through the city shortly after 9 a.m. Friday, and at approximately 9:15 a.m. the 12 teams of officers and agents secured the 12 businesses, shutting them down during the search and investigation, which included complete inventories of the alleged gambling machines, dismantling and loading the machines on to waiting trucks.
“It’s a tedious process because we have to inventory the machines, photograph, do things meticulously,” Bratton explained.
The stores that were raided during Friday’s activity included:
MQ Food Mart, 1900 North Beaton Street;
Corsicana Mini Mart #2, 1626 West Seventh Avenue (Shell);
Corsicana Mini Mart #2, 2500 West Seventh Avenue (Valero);
Quick Mart (Shell), 2890 West Second Avenue;
Jiffy Mart, 2821 West Seventh Avenue;
Speedy Mart, 601 North Beaton Street;
The Friendly Store, 801 South Seventh Street;
M&W Express, 816 South Seventh Street;
Big Deli, 1010 South Seventh Street;
King Mart, 2050 East Highway 31;
Times Market #501 (Chevron), 941 West Seventh Avenue;
Tigers Den, 1921 North 45th Street.
No arrests had been made in connection with the raids as of Friday morning, Bratton said, adding the investigation is continuing and at some point could lead to arrests locally.
Texas Attorney General makes related arrests
The Texas Attorney General’s office, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service, Dallas Police Department and Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office all cooperated in arresting the top bosses at HEST Technologies, Inc., in Haltom City, the company that makes the video sweepstakes machines.
A local raid on convenience stores in Corsicana netted a slew of the machines at the same time.
The defendants face felony gambling, money laundering and organized criminal activity charges. The Texas Attorney General’s Office will prosecute the cases in conjunction with the Tarrant and the Anderson County Criminal District Attorney’s Offices. Assistant Attorney General David Glickler will serve as the lead prosecutor for the State, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s office.
HEST’s promotional materials claim the corporation develops “sweepstakes promotional systems.” According to the felony charges filed against the defendants, however, HEST’s so-called “sweepstakes” systems constitute illegal gambling devices. As a result, the defendants face organized criminal activity charges for conspiring to violate state laws that prohibit gambling.