Internet Cafe Owners, Corporation Plead Guilty in Connection with Operating Illegal Slot Parlor
“Leo’s Place” Café Operated in Fall River and Fairhaven
FALL RIVER – Two individuals and their corporation have pleaded guilty to gaming charges in connection with operations out of “Leo’s Place” Internet cafés in Fall River and Fairhaven, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Leo Pelletier, 66, of Fall River, and Linda Pelletier, 47, of Spring Hill, Florida both pleaded guilty in Bristol County Superior Court Thursday to charges of organizing or promoting gambling services, operating an illegal lottery, allowing lotteries in a building, and the sale and advertising of lottery tickets. After the pleas were entered, Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh sentenced each of the defendants to two years of probation. The defendants operated two “Leo’s Place” internet cafés through the corporation they managed, New England Internet Cafés, LLC (NEIC). NEIC pleaded guilty to the same charges. As a condition of the plea, Judge Garsh ordered that 100 percent of NEIC’s assets, over $100,000, be forfeited to the Commonwealth
“Today’s resolution is a direct result of our ongoing investigation into unlawful gambling operations in Massachusetts,” AG Coakley said. “These cyber cafés are illegal and unregulated, with no protections for consumers. Those that continue to operate these illegal cafes could face civil penalties or penalties.”
Ron Sevigny, 66, of Fall River and Donald Greenidge, 52, of Shoreham, N.Y. each entered into agreed-upon dispositions for pretrial probation for two years. Sevigny and Greenidge faced charges in connection with organizing or promoting gambling services, and operating an illegal lottery.
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. The patrons were not, as suggested by the operators, simply paying for internet time and playing a free sweepstakes. Investigators also found 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.
The defendants were indicted on October 27, 2011 by a Special Statewide Grand Jury and were arraigned in Bristol Superior Court on December 13, 2011. Yesterday, Leo Pelletier, Linda Pelletier, and the corporation pleaded guilty to all charges. Sevigny and Geenidge each entered into agreed upon dispositions for pretrial probation for two years.
In July, NEIC and Internet Marketing Group, LLC (d/b/a/ “The Ship”) of Lynnfield agreed to pay $750,000 for allegedly facilitating illegal gambling. In the agreement, the cafés acknowledged that their use of software distributed by Teradyne Systems Massachusetts, LCC violated Massachusetts consumer protection laws.
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 in Massachusetts. The AG’s office issued permanent civil regulations in June 2011 under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act that bans the operation of so called “Internet Cafés” and similar establishments across the Commonwealth. Those that violate the law may be subject to injunctions, criminal charges, civil penalties and other relief under the Consumer Protection Act.
On August 1, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that further enhances the criminal penalties for illegal gambling at “cyber cafés” throughout Massachusetts. The new law goes into effect 90 days after it was signing and 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 carries a penalty of up to $250,000 per offending machine and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years in state prison.
The case was 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, Senior Investigator Mark Pulli, and State Police assigned to the AG’s Office assisted in the investigation.