ALBANY, Ga. — A grand jury indictment led to the arrest of two Albany men on 173 counts of commercial gambling and other charges on July 5, said District Attorney Greg Edwards.
James Epler Jr. and Jon Pope ran a commercial gambling operation in a second-hand store called The Thrift Shop at the Village Green Shopping Center, Edwards said.
Investigators served search warrants at the shop in April. Video gaming machines used for gambling were taken during the search, police said. The two men were charged with 12 counts of possession of a gambling device, according to the indictment.
The last indictment in the paperwork states that Epler and Pope used The Thrift Store and its corprate structure as a way to “participate in an enterprise through a patten of racketeering activity.”
At the time Edwards said, “I have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that cash prizes were involved. It is illegal.”
Epler and Pope were released on bail after their arrest, said a Dougherty County Jail spokeswoman. Bail information was not available, she said.
Each time a machine was played by a patron represented a separate count on the indictment, Edwards said. The counts on the machines used in the indictment stretch back from April 18 to March 16.
The machines were located in The Thrift Shop’s back room while the racks of used clothing, DVDs and other typical thrift shop goods were in the front showroom.
Just after the search, Epler said that his business was legitimate and licensed by the state. He also said that he did not offer cash prizes, but had gift cards to stores such as Sam’s Club to be given to winners.
About four years before the search of his thrift shop, the Dougherty County Commission denied Epler’s bid for an alcohol license at a different location based on a recommendation by Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek.
At the time Epler applied for the alcohol license, Cheek said that Epler had a past that included a burglary and cocaine possession charges.