By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — Clayton County police and the district attorney's office raided three gambling stores and plan to seize the owner's property under state racketeering laws.
Clayton District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said she will file forfeiture proceedings against Junaid Murshed Khan, 47, of Fayetteville. Lawson said she will seek Khan's property under the Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Organization Act.
"We plan to make allegations under RICO," she said Friday. "He is the alleged owner of all three businesses and his house, which we will seize under civil forfeiture. We plan to take his house, cars and cash."
Police and undercover officers raided Mi Casa, Su Casa and House of Decor Friday after arresting Khan. Lawson said the businesses operated strictly as gambling operations.
"You had to be buzzed in, like the old speakeasies," she said.
At Mi Casa, on Old Dixie Highway, SWAT team members had to break in through the front glass door to get inside. Glass covered the entryway, which featured home interior items, jewelry, art prints and dolls — all just a front for the gambling operation in the back room, said Lawson.
Once inside, officers discovered two toddlers. Lawson said the woman who worked the store was keeping an eye on them while her mother took her children to the doctor. Lawson said the woman's mother was the children's baby-sitter. The children did not speak English and the woman knew nothing about their parents.
Clayton police officers waited for hours with the boys for relatives to show up and take them home rather than placing them into foster care.
Kahn was booked into the Clayton County Jail on two counts of commercial gambling. Police also arrested Rosa Mendoza, 18, of Forest Park and charged her with commercial gambling.
Police were looking for Hugo Espinoza Cervantes, 26, of Riverdale, Maria Carman Rios, 32, of Forest Park, Alix Yaneth "Janet" Baron Perez, 23, of Forest Park and Julia Sandoval, 21, of Jonesboro.
Police said the suspects paid winnings on video gaming machines in cash, which violates state law.
Lawson said the raids were the result of an anonymous caller.
"Neighbors don't like the blight of these places," she said.
Lawson headed up a similar raid in July, seizing nearly $50,000 in cash and arresting five people. Her investigators collaborated with Forest Park police in making the bust.
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 at the time of his July arrest.
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.
Lawson said the owners of all three businesses will be charged and arrested. The stores will be placed in receivership, 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."