Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Forest Park police officers detain Marathon store clerk Dawit Tewolde while other officers search the business. Tewolde is charged with felony commercial gambling but said he is innocent.
Forest Park FOREST PARK -- Police and investigators Wednesday raided three businesses suspected of illegal gambling, seized nearly $50,000 in cash and arrested five people, said Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.
Her investigators collaborated with Forest Park police in making the bust. Lawson said police are looking for four others in connection with the case.
Police charged Dawit Tewolde, a clerk at Marathon on Ga. 54, with felony commercial gambling. Forest Park police detectives stood with Tewolde as uniformed officers searched the store and looked for surveillance equipment.
Tewolde denied participating in illegal gambling.
"There is no gambling," he said. "I never gave out cash, only items like grocery items."
Tewolde was booked into the Clayton County Jail and could face a magistrate Thursday afternoon.
But Lawson said Tewolde and clerks at Sun Coin Laundry and Main Street Grocery have been under surveillance for months. Lawson said winners were given cash, tobacco, alcohol and lottery tickets -- all of which is illegal.
There was no immediate information on the four others arrested Wednesday.
Lawson said the owners of all three businesses will be charged and arrested. The stores will be placed in receivership, she said.
"After they are placed in receivership, the stores will be turned back over to the owners so food doesn't spoil but they can't run an illegal gambling place anymore," said Lawson.
Civil racketeering complaints, known as RICO, will also be sought against the owners.
"We can take the entire store and seize bank accounts," she said.
Since taking office in 2009, Lawson's staff has raided more than 20 businesses suspected of illegal gambling. The money and other assets seized are put to good use, said Lawson.
"We get the money to do what needs to be done," she said. "I've bought cars, computers, paid for training, bought equipment and paid for the civil lawyers to handle the RICO cases."