The Wharton County Sheriff’s Office seized 59 eight-liner gaming machines and almost $14,000 cash during a raid on two Hungerford establishments Thursday.
Two arrests were made and court seizure cases are pending for both the machines and the cash.
The investigation isn’t over, Sheriff Shannon Srubar said Tuesday, adding these two places may not be the only illegal gaming establishments operating in rural Wharton County. “I would encourage those places to stop. These places attract crime and prey on our citizens by taking their money,” he told the Leader-News.
A citizen complaint launched a months-long investigation into establishments at 8122 and 7803 Colorado (Hwy. 60) in Hungerford. An eight-line in itself isn’t illegal in Texas. It’s when the machine pays a cash prize.
“WCSO detectives have been working the case for nearly six months,” Srubar said, adding search warrants were executed at the two locations simultaneously.
Jo Ann Carmona, 42, of 2500 Junior College Blvd. in Wharton, and Mary Ann Carmona, 60, of 808 CR 230 in Wharton were arrested on charges of gambling promotion, keeping a gambling place and two counts of possession of gambling equipment.
“We believe they are the owners but (the case is) still under investigation. No other arrests are pending at this time,” Srubar said.
Customers in the stores were released without receiving any citations.
The Carmonas were taken to the Wharton County Jail. Processed, each posted $8,000 in bonds and was released.
“A team of WCSO Investigators, WCSO ERT team, an El Campo Police Department detective, a Wharton County Deputy Constable of Precinct 2 and a member of the Hungerford Fire Department spent nearly six hours collecting the machines,” Srubar said, adding $13,886 in cash was seized as well.
“These items will be kept for safe keeping until a proper court proceeding takes place,” he said.
Citizens are encouraged to notify authorities when they believe an illegal gaming is operating in their area.
“I have not had any reports of illegal gambling in EC lately,” El Campo Police Chief Terry Stanphill said Tuesday. “It seems like they pop up every few years. We shut them down and a few (years) later one will show up.”
“I have had a couple business owners come in and ask about opening eight-liner type establishments,” he added. “My response is always ‘We enforce gambling laws. I suggest you visit with your attorney first.’”