Jigar Patel restocks shelves placed where the sweepstakes machines had been located. (Sept. 18, 2012/FOX Carolina)
LYMAN, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Spartanburg County deputies said they made a major bust of sweepstakes machines.
They seized thousands of dollars and made several arrests after raiding two stores, the Lyman Convenience Store on Pine Ridge Road and the Citgo on Fort Prince Boulevard.
The manager of the Citgo told FOX Carolina he was surprised when deputies put him in cuffs, saying he had no idea the machines he was operating were illegal.
Jigar Patel said he has worked at the Lyman Citgo for more than five years, and for the past three months, the store had a pair of sweepstakes machines until Monday when deputies seized them.
"I was caught off guard I was confused about what was going on, I cooperated with them, gave them all the documents and let them search whatever they wanted to search," Patel said.
According to a sheriff's office report, an undercover deputy played the machines at the store and received a cash payout.
Shortly afterward, the deputy returned with an arrest warrant for Patel.
Patel said he believed the machines were legal because he had paperwork for them and that South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents had cleared them.
"We had the documentation from the machines' owner that they had passed with the courthouse and SLED has cleared them before," Patel said.
Deputies also raided the Pine Ridge Road store, where deputies found three sweepstakes machines that also gave cash payouts, according to the report.
Deputies arrested two people and issued another woman a ticket in connection with playing the games. The machines and more than $7,000 were also seized, the report said.
While Spartanburg County investigators did not want to comment on their ongoing investigation, the Seventh Circuit Solicitor's Office issued a statement about the legality of "sweepstakes" machines, "... the South Carolina Attorney General believes that all video gambling devices, which are games of chance, are prohibited by state law and we concur with the opinion."
Patel said he has been a law abiding citizen all of his life and plans to remain one. He said the machines were in the front of the store, they were not hidden and other Upstate store owners have them as well.
With all of the confusion over what type of gaming machines are legal and aren't, he said he wishes law enforcement would give a grace period.
"I would comply as well as most of the store owners and it would save a lot of time for them and a lot of time for us," Patel said.
Patel also encouraged other business owners to get officials to check to make sure their machines are approved.
Deputies said if anyone has a question about the law on gaming machines, they should call the sheriff's office.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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