Macon – Bibb County grand jurors voted Tuesday to indict 16 defendants in a multi-jurisdictional racketeering case on charges including bribery, money laundering, tax evasion and illegal gambling.
Those charged include:
- Macon business owners Mukeshkumar Patel, 53; Manishkumar Patel, 43; Kunj Patel, 29; Hiren Patel, 37; Panth Patel, 34; former Ideal, Ga. police chief Ennis Odom; and Rahim McCarley, 25, who also was a Bibb County deputy at the time of the alleged racketeering enterprise;
- Savannah area business owners Manoj “Ray” Patel, 48; Bhunica Ambu, 32; Zankhana Patel, 32; Nimishaben Chaudhari, 33; and Parth Patel, 24;
- Statesboro area businessmen Nital “Nick” Raval, 40; and Samir Patel, 53; and
- Georgia Department of Revenue agent Ronald C. Huckaby, 55. Huckaby is no longer employed by the Department of Revenue. Also charged is then-Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department Captain Larry Todd Mashburn, 50, who is now head of School Safety at Bulloch County Schools.
According to the indictment:
Statesboro business owner Nick Raval bribed Mashburn in 2017 with loans, gifts of money, use of Raval’s vehicles, liquor and a watch in exchange for the deputy giving Raval a badge, a deputy identification card, assistance with traffic citations and additional law enforcement protection.
Raval also is accused of bribing Huckaby in 2017 and 2018 with two sets of cross-country airline tickets valued at more than $1,500 in exchange for Huckaby providing Raval with confidential information about Raval’s business competitors.
The indictment alleges 58 business locations located throughout the state were included in the racketeering scheme. Hubs were located in Bibb, Bulloch, Chatham and Glynn counties.
Location License Holders and Master License Holders are required to apply for and receive licenses from the state to operate the coin-operated amusement gambling machines found in many convenience stores. On the applications, they must swear that all the information is true and correct, including whether the applicant is delinquent in paying taxes.
According to the indictment, between Jan. 1, 2017, and March 31, 2019, the defendant store location owners and the other store locations in the enterprise collected more than $3 million in sales tax, but failed to pay the tax to the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Additionally, the indictment alleges the defendant store location owners made false statements that they were not delinquent in paying taxes, and swore falsely on their 2018, 2019 and 2020 COAM location license applications.
The Master License Holder defendants are accused of making false reports and swearing falsely on their 2018 and 2019 applications that they were not delinquent in paying taxes, had not paid inducements to store owners and that they hadn’t used unfair methods of competition.
The indictment alleges the Master License Holder defendants filed false Georgia tax returns in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and attached their corresponding federal tax returns, underreporting income by claiming fraudulent deductions.
For tax years 2017 and 2018, the Master License Holder defendants are estimated to be delinquent in corporate income taxes owed to the state of Georgia in excess of $350,000.
The indictment alleges between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018, the Master License Holder defendants paid inducements to the defendant Location License Holders and store location owners and operators to secure agreements to keep their gaming machines in the store locations.
Georgia law prohibits the Master License Holders from having any interest in the businesses or stores where the machines are placed. By law, the state receives 10 percent of the net proceeds from the games. The store owners and machine owners must evenly split the remainder of the proceeds.
According to the indictment, between Jan. 1, 2016, and July 2, 2019, the defendant Master License Holders or an entity they controlled, owned some of the real estate where the machines were placed and the Location License Holders paid rent to the Master License Holders.
In some instances, Location License Holders acted as “straw men” who posed to be the owner when in fact the Master License Holders also owned the store. Given the arrangement, the Master License Holders were illegally pocketing both shares of the proceeds.
The 27-count indictment also outlines allegations relating to other instances of defendants making false statements, money laundering and illegal cash payouts made to undercover law enforcement agents.
Although stores can give winning players merchandise, vouchers for merchandise, lottery tickets or free replays, cash payouts are prohibited.
The Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office filed a related civil forfeiture action against S&W Amusement Inc., Booray Group LLC, Krishna Amusement Inc. and PNP Amusement Games LLC in July 2019. That action resulted in multimillion dollar consent orders as to the Master License Holders involved.
Six defendants named in Tuesday’s indictment — Nital Raval, Manoj Patel, Bhunica Ambu, Zankhana Patel, Ronald C. Huckaby, and Rahim McCarley — were arrested in July 2019 on charges related to this case. Superior Court bench warrants have been issued for additional arrests pursuant to the indictment.
Defendants in the civil and criminal cases are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
“Over the past seven years, my office has sought to hold the gambling industry accountable for the financial crimes associated with operating their machines. Experts have described this type of gambling as being incredibly addictive. It hooks our society’s most vulnerable members into gambling away money they can’t afford to lose,” said District Attorney David Cooke. “This just compounds the challenges we face relating to poverty, blight and crime. Without commenting on any particular store, the large amounts of illicit cash in these types of businesses have led to a number of armed robberies, assaults, and murders.
“As we have held more and more in this industry accountable, it’s become clear that many of them expect to escape accountability under the law by giving money and gifts to those charged with enforcing it. Bribery and public corruption cannot be condoned or accepted in any society of laws, justice, and accountability,” Cooke said.
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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack