Macon – Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke announced Thursday the dismantling of one of the largest illegal gambling operations in Georgia.
The District Attorney’s Office entered into a more than $14 million civil forfeiture settlement this week with Georgia Atlanta Amusements LLC, its owners and associates.
As a condition of the settlement, Georgia Atlanta Amusements and its owners are barred from operating coin-operated amusement machines in the future.
A judge will determine how the forfeited assets will be divided. It’s expected that the Georgia Lottery will receive a portion of the proceeds to fund HOPE Scholarships and that funds will be used to pay sales and use taxes owed from the illegal operation of machines in Bibb County. District Attorney’s Offices and law enforcement who participated in the case also are likely to receive portions of the settlement proceeds.
The case is the result of a multi-jurisdictional investigation into illegal gambling at convenience stores, including some in Bibb and Peach counties.
Georgia Atlanta Amusements LLC, a corporation run by Junaid Virani and his family members, owned more than 650 electronic gambling machines placed at approximately 130 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.
Beginning in July 2015, all gambling machines in Georgia were connected to a central computer system that records the amounts played and customers winnings.
As a result, investigators discovered that Georgia Atlanta Amusements had failed to pay required sales and use taxes on the approximately $46 million customers won on the company’s machines.
Junaid Virani, 38, of Suwanee, entered a guilty plea Wednesday to a criminal charge of making an illegal cash payout at a Bibb County store in 2018. He was sentenced to a year on probation. The plea agreement reflects the significant and ongoing cooperation Virani has provided to authorities investigating illegal gambling across the state. The criminal case against Virani’s brother, 43-year-old Rohil Virani, has been dismissed due to him being in federal custody pending deportation proceedings.
Speaking at a Thursday news conference, District Attorney David Cooke said, “With this settlement and the associated criminal prosecution, we’ve shut down a wide-reaching criminal enterprise in an industry that has contributed to violent crime and preyed on low-income residents in our community. I hope this sends a message to the illegal gambling industry that with each successive prosecution and forfeiture action, the profitability for illegal gambling goes down. Sooner or later, they’ll realize there’s no profit in exploiting our citizens for money.”
Criminal and civil cases still are pending against other defendants associated with the investigation. Defendants in the criminal case still are presumed innocent unless and until they’re found guilty in a court of law.
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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack