Police raid Internet cafe, seize computers

Gainesville Police Department detectives conduct a raid at the Gators Hot Spot Sweepstakes internet cafe on NW 13th street in Gainesville on Tuesday.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 4:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 5:56 p.m.

An Internet cafe on Northwest 13th Street was raided Tuesday afternoon by police, who suspect the operation is breaking laws that were passed by the Florida Legislature earlier this year.

No one was arrested but police seized computers and other equipment at Gator Hot Spots at 2109 NW 13th St.

“It's been open about four weeks. We started looking into it right away,” Gainesville police Lt. Will Halvosa said. “There are no others open in Gainesville, but I don't know about Alachua County.”

Halvosa said the search warrant alleges two felonies -- keeping a gambling house and running a lottery that is prohibited. It also alleges two misdemeanors -- running games of chance and having illegal slot machines.

The raid was welcomed by Adam Brewer, owner of the Adam's Rib restaurant next door.

Brewer said the Internet cafe drew some unsavory patrons and that loitering in the parking lot shared by the business was becoming a problem.

“They are not producing goods or services. They are taking lower-income people and recruiting them in and taking their money. What they are doing is illegal,” Brewer said. “The kind of crowd that it does attract is not the crowd that we want in that area. We've seen all kinds of stuff -- potential safety issues, people walking around the parking lot at night.”

A sign on the business indicates it is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Another sign indicates a cafe was going to open farther north on 13th Street at the site of the former Allied Veterans Internet cafe.

Allied Veterans of the World ran cafes throughout Florida before the organization came under fire for essentially operating gambling houses with computers used as slot machines.

Legislation that outlawed the cafes was signed into law in April. Meanwhile, several Allied Veterans associates were charged by federal and state authorities alleging an organized $300 million conspiracy of racketeering and money laundering.

Halvosa said Tuesday he was told that Gator Hot Spots was not associated with Allied Veterans.

About 60 computers were in the orange and blue building that was once a Pizza Hut and an Indian restaurant.

Under the law, patrons can be charged, but Halvosa said he believed none would be arrested in this case.

Several customers were in the cafe when police arrived. One woman, who would not give her name, said she had built up earnings of about $77 that she could not collect because of the raid.

“I wanted to cash out and they wouldn't let me,” she said. “The sign said they were legit and I asked them if they were legit. I wouldn't have been in here if it wasn't. I just stopped by for a few minutes.”

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