Internet Café Owner, Corporation and Three Others Indicted for Operating an Illegal Slot Parlor
“Leo’s Place” Café Operated in Fall River and Fairhaven
BOSTON - The owner of two Internet cafés and his corporation have been indicted on charges of operating an illegal slot parlor, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. Three other individuals have also been indicted on gaming charges in connection with operations out of “Leo’s Place” Internet cafés in Fall River and Fairhaven.
“These cyber cafés are really cyber scams with no posted odds, minimum odds, or guarantee of payouts for consumers,” AG Coakley said. “We allege that the defendants attempted to skirt the laws by operating nothing more than an illegal, unregulated slot parlor with no protections for consumers.”
Leo Pelletier, 66, of Fall River, was indicted today by a Special Statewide Grand Jury on charges of organizing or promoting gambling services, operating an illegal lottery, allowing lotteries in a building, and the sale and advertising of lottery tickets. Pelletier allegedly operated two “Leo’s Place” Internet cafés through his corporation New England Internet Cafés, LLC (NEIC). The corporation faces these same charges.
Indictments were also returned against Ron Sevigny, 66, of Fall River; Linda Pelletier, 47, of Spring Hill, Florida; and Donald Greenidge, 52, of Shoreham, New York. All three are charged with one count each of organizing or promoting gambling services, and operating an illegal lottery. Linda Pelletier was also charged with the sale and advertising of lottery tickets.
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to run or promote a gambling operation. The current gambling law in this case points to the existence of an illegal “lottery.” The definition of a lottery includes a payment to play, a prize, and some element of chance.
In February 2011, the Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into “Leo’s Place” locations in Fairhaven and Fall River. Evidence gathered during the course of the investigation demonstrates that patrons of these Internet cafés were paying nearly exclusively for the right to gamble. Authorities allege that patrons were not, as suggested by the operators, simply paying for Internet time and playing a free sweepstakes. Investigators also allege that, “no purchase required” opportunities were of no legal significance and gambling was the only clear purpose for these cafés. Both locations ceased operations in the wake of the AG’s investigation.
All four defendants are expected to be arraigned in Bristol County Superior Court at a future date. These charges are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Today’s actions by the Attorney General’s Office are a direct result of complaints regarding alleged unlawful gambling operations that have recently opened for business across the Commonwealth. While these businesses purport to sell goods or services, such as Internet access or phone cards, the Attorney General’s investigation found that those sales were a pretext for unlawful and unregulated lotteries, online slot parlors, sweepstakes, and similar gambling. The AG’s office issued permanent civil regulations in June under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act that bans the operation of so called “Internet Cafés” and other establishments across the Commonwealth. Those that violate the law may be subject to injunctions, civil penalties and other relief under the Consumer Protection Act.
In July, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and AG Coakley filed legislation that further enhances the criminal penalties for illegal gambling at “cyber cafés” throughout Massachusetts. The proposed legislation establishes a new crime for conducting or promoting an unauthorized sweepstakes that is executed through the use of the entertaining display of an electronic machine. The new crime would carry a penalty of up to $250,000 per offending machine and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years in the state prison.
The Attorney General’s investigations into various Internet cafés throughout the Commonwealth remains active and ongoing.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Thomas Ralph and Timothy Wyse of the AG’s Cyber Crime Division, and AAG Lee Hettinger, Chief of the Western Massachusetts Regional Office. The Attorney General’s Computer Forensic Laboratory, Financial Investigator Mark Pulli, and State Police assigned to the Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley all assisted in the investigation.