AUTRYVILLE — More video gaming machines have been seized by local law enforcement and a female arrested following complaints received of illegal gambling activities at Garthie’s Store on Maxwell Road, according to reports.
Karen Anita Taylor, 52, of 3358 Ernest Williams Road, Clinton, was charged with allowing to be operated/operating five or more server-based video gaming machines, a felony offense, as well as a misdemeanor gambling charge.
Agents with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Special Investigation Division went to the location and were given consent to search the property. During the search, agents found five machines in operation at the business and subsequently charged Taylor.
She was arrested late Friday night at the business, located at 5301 Maxwell Road, Autryville. Taylor is a store clerk at the business and is not the owner, sheriff’s officials said.
“It is an ongoing investigation,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Marcus Smith, “and more charges are possible.”
Friday’s bust came two months after a Feb. 1 seizure at JMJ Coin Laundry in Roseboro, where 11 gaming machines were removed, the proprietor and his brother arrested and six people cited with gambling. That was also the result of tips from the community. The brothers who ran the business received a felony charge each. One was previously arrested in December 2015 as part of a joint undercover probe into sweepstakes and video poker operations by Alcohol Law Enforcement and the Sampson Sheriff’s Office.
In all, some 200 sweepstakes and video poker machines, along with an undisclosed amount of cash, were seized in that December raid following the search of the four Sampson County businesses that law enforcement officials said were operating as illegal gambling establishments, as well as a convenience store where terminals were also operating.
JMJ along with Top Catz in Autryville, Roseboro Overstock and Clinton Overstock were all searched as part of that operation, along with an additional business licensed by the N.C. Education Lottery, Lucky Stop in Autryville, where four video poker machines were located. Eight individuals were charged at that time.
Garthie’s Store is the third Autryville-area business to be targeted.
State efforts to outlaw video gambling have led to multiple lawsuits in recent years. The N.C. Attorney General’s Office has fought in court to uphold the ban and, in December 2012, the N.C. Supreme Court upheld the law, paving the way for law enforcement and District Attorneys to take action against violators. Enforcement has occurred since then, but gray area in the law kept many operations going, depending on their location and authorities’ discretion.
With each bust, sheriff’s officials have sought to deliver the message that those in operation in Sampson will be shut down and arrests made in connection with the illegal activity.
Taylor was given $5,000 unsecured bond for the offenses. A court date for this Friday was set.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.