Madisonville police seized $53,342 in cash and made six arrests Friday after executing a search warrant on the Z-M.S. convenience store in Madisonville.
A total of 31 charges were filed against six individuals, five of whom are employees of the store.
Zahid Sattar, 24, Saeed Qasim, 21, Charline Scholz, 71, Quiuber Lira, 37, and Hector Rodriguez, 43, were each charged with three misdemeanor counts and three state jail felonies. The misdemeanor charges include keeping a gambling place; gambling promotion; and possession of gambling devices, equipment, paraphernalia. The state jail felony charges include engaging in organized criminal activity – gambling place, engaging in organized criminal activity – gambling promotion, and engaging in criminal activity – gambling possession.
A sixth individual, Richard Paz, 55, was also arrested during the search on a blue warrant unrelated to the investigation.
“There had been numerous complaints from parents and citizens regarding the sale of alcohol, tobacco and K-2 or Kush (synthetic marijuana) to minors,” Madisonville Police Chief Chuck May said. “Our attempts at making a case on these violations were unsuccessful due to the fact that our officers are well known and we do not use children to do undercover purchases. Approximately seven weeks ago, we focused on the illegal gambling aspect of the business. After several successful encounters and engaging in the gambling operation, we were able to obtain a search and arrest warrant for this location.”
A total of 14 “eight-liner” machines, similar to classic slot machines but without a lever, were confiscated during the raid. May said that these machines typically sell for $5,000 to $10,000 a piece.
The phenomenon of “game rooms” has become increasingly popular in Texas. Many convenience stores in urban areas, including Houston, have carried “eight-liners” for a long time and offered prizes in exchange for winning.
“Game rooms” have become a source of revenue for some small communities. This past summer, Duval County instituted an $800 licensing fee for “eight-liner” machines and has collected more than $600,000 in revenue so far this year, according to an article published in the Austin American-Statesman.
In the same article, the City of Gregory with a population of 2,000 people, was cited as collecting more than $800,000 in tax revenue over a period of 18 months after instituting a $1,000-per-machine tax.
“Due to the efforts of officers Jonathan Zitzmann and Gary Laws, this investigation ended with positive results,” May said. “Both officers invested numerous man-hours on this case, which included working on their days off and after hours.”