Manager of Chicopee Internet Café Pleads Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with Operating an Illegal Slot Parlor
SPRINGFIELD – A manager of “Cafeno’s” Internet café in Chicopee has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in connection with operating an illegal slot parlor, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Stephen Megliola, 44, of Longmeadow, pleaded guilty on Friday in Hampden Superior Court to charges of organizing or promoting gambling services and operating an illegal lottery. After the plea was entered, Judge Mary-Lou Rup sentenced Megliola to two years of probation.
“This defendant has admitted to his part in running this business, which was simply a front for an illegal gambling operation,” said AG Coakley. “These so-called Internet cafés are unregulated slot parlors that operate in direct violation of Massachusetts law.”
In June, the owner and other manager of “Cafeno’s” Internet café, Steven Sheldon, and the corporation pleaded guilty 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. Each defendant was sentenced to two years of probation and more than $250,000 of assets were ordered to be forfeited to the Commonwealth.
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 September 2010, the AG’s Office began an investigation into “Cafeno’s” in Chicopee. Evidence gathered during the course of the investigation revealed that patrons of this Internet café were paying nearly exclusively for the right to gamble. The patrons were not, as suggested by the operator, simply paying for Internet time and playing a free sweepstakes. Further, “no purchase required” opportunities were trivial and insignificant and gambling was the only clear purpose for these cafés. “Cafeno’s” ceased operation in March 2011.
A Statewide Grand Jury returned indictments against Cafeno’s, Megliola and Sheldon in November 2011. All the defendants were arraigned in Hampden Superior Court in January 2012. Sheldon and Cafeno’s pleaded guilty and were sentenced on June 7. Megliola pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Friday.
This action by the AG's Office is a direct result of complaints regarding alleged unlawful gambling operations. The AG’s office issued permanent civil regulations in June 2011 under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. The Act bans the operation of so called “cyber 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.
Additionally, in August 2012, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that further enhances the criminal penalties for illegal gambling at “cyber cafés” throughout Massachusetts. The law has gone into effect and establishes a new crime for conducting or promoting an unauthorized sweepstakes that is executed through the use of the 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.
In May 2013, the owners of an Internet café in Revere were indicted, along with their corporation, on charges of operating an illegal slot parlor. In August 2012, two individuals and their corporation pleaded guilty to gaming charges in connection with operations out of Internet cafés in Fall River and Fairhaven.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Thomas Ralph and Timothy Wyse of the AG’s Cyber Crime Division, and AAG Lee Hettinger. The Attorney General’s Computer Forensic Laboratory, Senior Financial Investigator Mark Pulli, Department of Revenue Investigator Thomas Nowicki, and State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office assisted in the investigation.