Investigators served search warrants at five internet cafes Thursday, spanning several Ohio counties, suspected of criminal activity beyond illegal gambling.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton, and Marysville Police Chief Floyd Golden announced the multi-jurisdictional investigation Thursday.
Investigators served search warrants at the following locations:
Marysville Internet Café, 302 East 5th Street, Marysville
Middletown Sweepstakes Café, 421 South Breiel Boulevard, Middletown
Kenton Internet Café, 977 East Columbus Street, Kenton
Belle Phone Internet Café, 1850 South Main Street, Bellefontaine
Sidney Internet Café, 1524 Michigan Street, Sidney
"We are still in the beginning stages of what we expect to be a very lengthy investigation," said DeWine. "While it is too early in the investigation to go into specifics, we do believe the alleged criminal activity at these locations goes beyond illegal gambling."
The investigation began in Marysville in 2012.
"The activity at these sweepstakes or internet cafe's has been a concern for some time," said Golden. "Our investigation began with one local internet cafe and a skill game establishment, but then grew as it became obvious this same activity was occurring at multiple businesses across several jurisdictions."
Officials said that prizes won at the businesses would not be paid, or would be negotiated down to a lesser amount.
"They'd sell you a phone card and then that card has so many points loaded onto it that you stick into the computer to play the games. The problem comes when you win off of that, they give you a cash payout," Golden said.
No arrests were made following the warrants, but charges could be filed in the future, according to DeWine.