Fort Valley – Peach County jurors deliberated for nearly three hours Monday before finding an owner of a now-shuttered Byron restaurant guilty of commercial gambling, possession of a gambling device or equipment and keeping a gambling place.
A trial began for Ronald D. Bartlett, 73, on Feb. 12.
Bartlett, owner of the now-shuttered Captain Jack’s Crab Shack, could face up to seven years in prison when he’s sentenced on a later date. He was taken into custody Monday night after the verdict was announced.
Prosecutors Neil Halvorson and Michael Lambros presented evidence during the trial showing:
Bartlett owned and operated Captain Jack’s Crab Shack, 107 Chapman Road in Byron.
They Byron Police Department launched an investigation in March 2015 including multiple businesses after receiving citizen complaints about illegal gambling. As part of the investigation, an undercover officer visited Captain Jack’s Crab Shack on six occasions in March and April 2015, secretly recording audio and video as she played the machines and received illegal cash payouts as winnings.
Winnings can only be legally redeemed for store credit, merchandise, lottery tickets or gas.
The undercover officer testified she received a voucher for her winnings that in each instance she took to a cashier who required that she buy a lottery ticket and paid the remaining balance of the voucher in cash.
A customer who won a $2,400 jackpot also testified she received a cash payout.
While the games must require the use of skill to be legal, jurors watched a video of a machine landing on a winning result without any input from the player.
A forensic accountant testified he examined records for Captain Jack’s Crab Shack and two other businesses owned by Bartlett — Friends Bar and Grill, 7405 Industrial Highway in Macon and Chevy’s, 1229 Russell Parkway in Warner Robins. He said he couldn’t account for about $2.5 million of the more than $4.4 million customers inserted into machines at the three locations between October 2013 and June 2015.
Further, the accountant testified he found no evidence that the restaurants had paid the required sales and use taxes for food or other merchandise being redeemed as winnings.
Prosecutors entered into evidence a Coin Operated Amusement Machine Application submitted by Bartlett to the Georgia Lottery Corporation in which he noted on the application that he was not delinquent in paying taxes, fees or other obligations to the state.
A second undercover officer testified he visited Friends Bar and Grill and Chevy’s in June 2015, more than a month after authorities arrested Bartlett and served search warrants at Captain Jack’s Crab Shack and at Bartlett’s home.
The officer said he witnessed illegal cash payouts being given to customers who’d played the gaming machines at both restaurants and received a cash payout himself at Chevy’s.
Prosecutors also introduced evidence of a 2010 investigation at Captain Jack’s Crab Shack in which a confidential informant was paid cash winnings.
Speaking after the verdict was announced, Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke said, “Mr. Bartlett made millions off the addictions of his patrons. I’m glad the jury held him accountable for the devastation and heartache he caused middle Georgia families. Tonight he’s in jail where he belongs.”
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