Fort Valley – A judge sentenced the owner of a now-shuttered Byron restaurant to five years, two of them in prison, Wednesday morning.
The sentencing came about a month after Peach County jurors found 73-year-old Ronald D. Bartlett guilty of commercial gambling, possession of a gambling device or equipment and keeping a gambling place. Bartlett owned and operated Captain Jack’s Crab Shack, 107 Chapman Road in Byron.
Prosecutors Neil Halvorson and Michael Lambros presented evidence during the trial showing:
The 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.
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.
Evidence was presented showing cash payouts occurred at Friends Bar and Grill and Chevy’s more than a month after Bartlett was arrested on allegations relating to Captain Jack’s Crab Shack.
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 sentencing, Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke said, “This prosecution and sentence should send a message to any criminal organization who thinks they can profit off this community’s addictions. Any organization that makes their profit off an organized criminal enterprise should be put on notice that despite the amount of money they have been making, crime doesn’t pay.”
Bartlett is barred from having coin operated amusement machines for the duration of his sentence.
The judge granted a motion filed by Bartlett’s attorneys seeking a bond for their client while he appeals his conviction. Bartlett, who has been in custody since Feb. 19, may be released if he posts a $50,000 bond and wears an ankle monitor. He must remain at his Bibb County home from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily and is barred from travel outside Bibb County.
Cooke said, “As the judge said from the bench today, this case was well-tried and the jury was properly charged. We agree with the court and are confident the jury’s verdict will stand.”
In a separate hearing on Wednesday, former Byron convenience store owner Andy Young Kim, 52, pleaded guilty to commercial gambling and was sentenced to serve five years on probation and pay $40,000 restitution. Undercover officers who played machines at Kim’s Raceway and Marathon gas stations on Ga. Highway 49 in 2015 received illegal cash payouts.
After Kim’s plea, charges are still pending against only one defendant charged after the 2015 Peach County gambling raids.
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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack[email protected]