Seminole County sheriff announces arrests in major gambling bust

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — The Seminole County sheriff announced that an illegal undercover gambling bust led to more than 18 arrests and eight illegal gambling businesses being shut down.

Sheriff Dennis Lemma said they got tips into Crimeline from those who went to the illegal casinos.

The suspects appeared in court on Thursday.

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The Sheriff’s Office launched the undercover operation in May.

Three-hundred machines with tens of thousands of dollars in cash were found.

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Some of the machines still had money inside.

Eighteen people are facing several charges, including racketeering, possession of gambling machines and operating a lottery.

Two people have not been arrested yet.

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Agents said they served search warrants and dismantled illegal gambling centers at the following Seminole County locations:

  • 430 State Road 436, Suite 104, Casselberry.
  • 2921 South Orlando Drive, Suite 172, Sanford.
  • 481 North State Road 434, Suite 105, Altamonte Springs.
  • 494 South Hunt Club Boulevard, Apopka.
  • 420 East State Road 434, Suite F, Longwood.
  • 851 West State Road 436, Altamonte Springs.
  • 801 West State Road 436, Suite 1005, Altamonte Springs.
  • 2565 Park Drive, Sanford.

The casinos were in unmarked businesses in plazas. Some used a fake front such as a pawn shop and a marketing business.

“People would go in these places, largely were packed, on what appeared to be people on fixed income, disproportionate senior citizens, and they would walk in hit the buzzer. And once they were recognizable to the operator, they would then be granted access in and the door would be locked behind them,” Lemma said.

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The sheriff said many of the people had operated illegal casinos in the past in other jurisdictions in Florida, and they got a slap on the wrist, but not this time.

The operators are being are facing felony charges, which carry a no bond status.

The sheriff told Channel 9 that the leases for these establishments were not typical,

Most of them paid with cash and no paper trail.

One by one, the suspects faced a judge on charges of racketeering, possession of gambling machines and operating a lottery.

Attorney Kelly Matthis represents several of the suspects. He said the charges are unfounded and that the sheriff is overreaching.

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Jeff Levkulich

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.

Katlyn Brieskorn, WFTV.com

Katlyn Brieskorn is a Digital Assignment Editor at WFTV. She joined Channel 9 in July 2019.