6th arrest made in July Internet cafe arrest

By News4Jax.com Staff, webteam@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 07 2014 03:40:29 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 07 2014 04:38:29 PM EDT

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo of Bert French

Police have made a sixth arrest connected with the raid on July 11 of two businesses operating as Internet cafes.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, 45-year-old Bert French was arrested Wednesday on multiple charges of keeping a gambling house, conducting a lottery for money and owning a slot machine.

Two Internet cafes were raided and five people arrested Friday in what Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said was an investigation into illegal gambling.

Storefronts operating under the name "Senior Social Centers" on Normandy and Blanding boulevards were raided by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in a joint operation with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney's Office.

Rutherford said these businesses were offering slot machine and other gambling play on computer terminals.

"It is clear these businesses were offering casino-style games of chance," Rutherford said at the time.

Undercover officers said they had documented the gambling by using the online games. He said they won up to $136, but more often lost money using the terminals.

The day of the raids, five employees of the two businesses were arrested on charges of possession of a gambling device and keeping a gambling house. Shonderika Lowery, Gynarva Monroe, Antonio Hodges, Joyce McCaffrey and Felicia Maxwell were all arrested and booked into the Duval County jail Friday afternoon.  

JSO booking photos of (from left) Felicia Maxwell, Joyce McCaffrey, Gynarva Monroe, Shonderika Lowery and Antonio Hodges

Patrons at businesses when they were raided were questioned and released without facing any charges.

Those two locations had been raided in April operating as locations of "Pete's Retreat," but no arrests were made in that investigation.  They had reopened under the new names.

In a statewide crackdown on the Internet gaming centers last year, 49 Allied Veterans of the World locations were closed and 57 people were arrested on racketeering, gambling and money laundering charges. A Jacksonville lawyer -- Kelly Mathis -- who prosecutors called the mastermind of the scheme, was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.

The sheriff said he wants to be clear to those who keep reopening these businesses that he will not tolerate illegal gambling in Jacksonville.

"If you're given payouts through these machines, you can pretty much guarantee they're illegal," Rutherford said. "That's the message. If you're out there running them, we may be in your place doing an undercover operation today."

The sheriff is also warning landlords of these facilities, to be aware that they could also face prosecution for housing the internet cafes as tenants.

"For those owners who wish support and invest in these illegal gambling practices, I can assure you that you are throwing away your valued resources in the trash. Those who have continued in the past we often seize exemplars in these operations and we are now seizing every piece of electronics in the business used to commit the crime," said Rutherford.  

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