Macon – Owners of a Peach County convenience store pleaded guilty Monday to gambling offenses and were sentenced to pay $23,000 in restitution to the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Pankaj Patel and his wife, Alkaben, have owned Grub-N-Gas at 201 Moseley Road in Byron since 2001. They both entered guilty pleas in a Superior Court hearing in Macon Monday. The Macon Judicial Circuit, headquartered in Macon, is comprised of Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties.
Pankaj Patel, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of commercial gambling and was sentenced to serve five years on probation in addition to paying restitution. Patel, who was sentenced as a first offender, also is barred from ever again having a coin operated amusement machine (COAM) and must pay a $1,000 fine.
Alkaben Patel, 43, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a gambling device. In addition to paying restitution, she was sentenced to a year on probation.
If the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would have presented evidence showing an undercover police officer played games on the store’s COAM machines in 2015 and was given illegal cash payouts in exchange for winnings. Winnings can only be legally redeemed for store credit, merchandise, lottery tickets or gas.
The Patels forfeited $90,000 in a January 2016 civil racketeering settlement with prosecutors.
Speaking after the hearing, Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke said, “Psychologists have described COAM machines as the crack cocaine of gambling. The destruction they have brought upon Georgia families is immeasurable. Anyone who makes money off another person’s addiction should expect to face the consequences.”
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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack