Macon – Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke announced Wednesday afternoon the filing of a civil forfeiture action against a group of defendants accused of racketeering, money laundering, filing false tax returns and failure to pay taxes.
A law enforcement investigation spanning many months uncovered evidence of illegal gambling at convenience stores across the state, including three in Bibb and Peach counties.
Six of the stores were searched and seized Wednesday as part of a racketeering lawsuit filed in Bibb County Superior Court that names 41 individual defendants and 61 corporate defendants in a statewide illegal gambling conspiracy.
The lawsuit alleges:
Defendants Nasiruddin Virani, Rohil Virani and Junaid N. Virani, through Georgia Atlanta Amusement LLC, Amusement Stops LLC and Amusements Pro LLC — corporations controlled by the Viranis — along with the Viranis’ associates, agents and employees, are accused of placing electronic gambling machines at purported legitimate businesses across the state so customers could illegally gamble for the chance to win cash prizes. To be legal, the games must require some element of skill for a customer to win. Cash payouts are prohibited.
These defendants, the GAA defendants, own more than 650 gambling machines placed in approximately 130 purportedly legitimate business locations across Georgia.
Beginning in July 2015, all gambling machines in Georgia were directly connected to a central computer system that records the amounts played and customers’ winnings. In 2017, customers inserted approximately $65 million to play the GAA defendants’ machines. They won about $46 million.
The GAA defendants have not paid required sales or use taxes on the $46 million. The GAA defendants’ net profit for 2017 alone was approximately $19 million.
It’s estimated that the GAA defendants owe more than $10 million in unpaid sales and use taxes for a period beginning in January 2015 and continuing to the present.
Georgia law prohibits gambling machine owners from owning the stores where the machines are placed and vice versa. According to the allegations in the complaint, the law enforcement investigation has shown the Viranis used straw men – Syed Farhan Jaffary, Syed Shan Jaffary, Syed Salmon Jaffary and Syed Karamant Jaffary – to set up and operate stores in Bibb, Clayton, Crisp and other counties, owning the stores on paper but allowing the Viranis to illegally collect both the 47.5 percent profit due to them as master license holders for the machines and the 47.5 percent profit owed to the store. State law prohibits either location or master license holders from collecting both portions.
The Viranis haven’t filed tax returns from 2015 to the present and have paid no income taxes. They are accused of laundering millions derived from the RICO enterprise by purchasing over $25 million in property throughout the state. One of these properties includes their home in Gwinnett County. The Viranis’ home, and the Jaffaries’ home — located in Alpharetta — were searched as part of today’s operation.
Georgia law prohibits master license holders like the Viranis from offering anything of value to businesses to persuade them to place gaming machines in their stores. Rohil N. Virani has been recorded on video paying $10,000 in cash to a store to induce the store to place GAA gambling machines at the location.
Additionally, as stated in the lawsuit, the illegal use of gambling machines is a contributor to violent crime. In Macon-Bibb County, there have been at least two murders that have a relationship to gambling machines. One of the murders has a link to a store included in this lawsuit.
Seventeen stores and three master licensees were placed in a court-ordered receivership Wednesday, and will remain in receivership during the pendency of the case. It will be up to the receiver and a judge whether the businesses continue to operate.
Several arrest warrants were served Wednesday on defendants accused of commercial gambling. This is an ongoing investigation and more arrests are possible.
Each defendant in the civil and criminal cases is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
We’d like to thank Clayton Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tracey-Graham Lawson and Cordele Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brad Rigby who also have been involved with this operation, along with officers from the Georgia Department of Revenue, Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, Crisp County Sheriff’s Office, Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, and the GBI commercial gambling unit.
For more news from the District Attorney’s Office, follow on Twitter @DA_DavidCooke, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DADavidCooke and on Instagram at da_davidcooke.
Contact: Amy Leigh Womack