PALATKA, Fla. - Deputies raided an internet cafe in Palatka on Thursday evening, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office said.
A News4Jax camera was recording just before 7 p.m. when a tactical unit made entry into RW's Cyber Cafe, across the street from the Sheriff's Office near the intersection of state roads 19 and 17.
"This is the Putnam County Sheriff's Office. We have a search warrant. Get on the ground," was the order that deputies gave to people inside the internet cafe just moments after several flash grenades were fired to get their attention. They also got the attention of people at a nearby park.
"I was wondering what was going on, but once I saw your news truck, I knew something was about to go down," witness Cornethia Foreman said. "It’s obvious that when Channel 4 is here, something is about to happen."
What happened was deputies raided RW's Cyber Cafe after Sheriff Gator DeLoach said the owners of the business had been repeatedly warned about illegal machines.
"It became evident to us, after some undercover operations that we conducted here, that these games were not legal as the owners had originally reported," the sheriff told News4Jax.
Based on the undercover investigations, according to DeLoach, many of the games were rigged to cheat customers out of their money.
"A lot of times, these patrons who come here, they come to these places and spend every penny they have. A lot of them are on Social Security or receive some kind of government assistance and they're spending all their money here and can’t afford to even feed their family," he said. "It’s a scam in my opinion."
The sheriff said many of these illegally operated businesses draw in other illegal activity, which is why narcotics deputies were also sweeping the place for drugs, as well as vehicles that were parked in the parking lot.
As of 7:30 p.m., according to the sheriff, it was too early to know whether any arrests had been made.
Investigators were expected to be at the internet cafe all night and into the morning. That's how long they said it will take them to process and remove machines and count every dollar that was spent by customers.
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