Internet cafes are popping up in cities and counties throughout California and their owners and operators are becoming increasingly nervous as state agents move in with warrants, seize their computers and shut them down.
"The state considers the so-called sweepstakes played at these internet cafes illegal gambling," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). "So our CSLEA members who are special agents in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Gambling Control are going in with local officers and putting a stop to it."
That was the case, Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in Stockton. DOJ special agents, along with Stockton police, raided the Click It cafe on Hammer Lane and seized 37 computers and $2,000. It was the second internet cafe bust in Stockton in two months.
In February, special agents closed down D's Cyber Lounge on Fremont Street. In an investigation that began in June 2012, special agents went undercover to expose what was really going on at D's. From the outside it appeared to be an internet cafe, but inside special agents and police say they found something totally different. Authorities report seizing guns, drugs, computers, $16,000, cash-counting machines and an ATM. It is believed the illegal gambling operation brought in up to $6,000 a day. Special agents report witnessing online gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking.
Typically, business owners and neighbors, who work and live near these operations, express relief and gratitude as these sites are shut down.
"There's no question, these operations tend to attract the wrong crowd," said Barcelona. "Special agents have the dangerous task of going into these operations, undercover, and exposing the illegal activity and making the necessary arrests . It's what they do to keep all of us safe and our neighborhoods crime-free."