Cumberland County deputies raid stores they say fronted illegal gambling

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Anonymous tip leads to sweepstakes bust

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said a local business owner was using two storefronts to hide a sweepstakes operation.

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On Wednesday morning, sheriff's deputies executed four search warrants beginning at the "Pick Up and Ride" Taxi Service on Reilly Road near the Fort Bragg gate.

Only ABC11 was on scene as detectives wheeled out six video gambling machines from the Reilly Road location. An anonymous tipster told authorities about the suspected illegal activity. After weeks of surveillance, deputies raided the building and arrested Won Nam Hong for felony gambling and conspiracy.

Detectives said Hong was running another operation just two miles down the road, masking that sweepstakes shack as a computer repair shop. Technically there were computers, they just weren't legal.

"It's gambling because the odds are in the house's favor. The machines are programmed to how much winning percentages it will pay out. Most of the time it's 70-80 percent and there's no skill involved in that," said Lt. Sean Swain.

Meanwhile deputies are skilled at finding these operations. It's been a top priority for the Sheriff's Office since 2008.

"Most standup machines are in houses in neighborhoods to keep them hidden. Because once you put them in store fronts, you have more traffic and can make more money, but you also run the risk us of finding it," Swain said.

Sweepstakes operations can attract more crime.

"What happens is, people realize how much money is on hand at these locations, it makes them a prime target for armed robberies," Swain said.

Those connected crimes are what scares neighboring business owners.

"It makes our reputation really bad because they're opening some business and we don't know what's going on. What if we get hurt? We have to think of our lives first," said Francesca Arnold, neighboring business owner.

Right now, the Sheriff's Office is thinking of their next sting.

"If we find out there's an illegal gambling establishment, we are going to be there to shut it down," Swain said.
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