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Interagency agreement played crucial role in CPD raid

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Eight internet cafes, 50 officers, one simultaneous shutdown

By Suzette Cook/Reporter

Chiefland City Commissioners joked during the Nov. 12 meeting that Chiefland Police Chief Scott Anderson timed the raid of eight local internet cafés to happen as the date of his annual review approaches. But Chief Anderson was quick to explain that the Nov. 3 bust was carried out as soon as his fiscal year reset and funding was available.

“It had to do with manpower and search warrants,” Anderson said. “It was based on the issuance of search warrants from the State Attorney’s Office and the allocation of manpower from several law enforcement agencies.”

At the State Attorney’s request, Anderson gathered evidence two weeks prior to the raid of the internet cafes The Fish Treasures, Blumas, Tropical Treasures, Chiefland Arcade, Hady Days Arcade, Cyber Center, Patriot Social Club, and Blue Lagoon.

“We had officers go into all of the casinos and gamble,” Anderson said. “And they were paying out cash money which they can’t do, it’s against the law. We did all that on video for court documentation.”

The raid effort involved dozens of law enforcement officers from Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Ocala Police Department, Levy County Sheriff’s Office, Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office along with CPD,” Anderson said. “I had 50 officers here with my people.”

The collaboration of multiple agencies made the operation a success. As soon as the State’s Attorney Office provided search warrants for all of the businesses, Anderson reached out to different agencies.

“We don’t have enough in Chiefland to get all eight at the same time,” Anderson said. “Especially when you might have 10 or 12 customers in each one. We wanted a minimum of five officers in each.”

Anderson said CPD officers took the role of leaders. “Each one of my officers was assigned as a team leader to bring the other officers in because no one has authority other than Levy County deputies to arrest anybody in the City of Chiefland.”

According to Levy County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Lt. Scott Tummond, interagency agreements are “like a neighbor helping a neighbor.

“Florida sheriffs have a task force that basically allows any deputy sheriff to go into any other jurisdiction in the State of Florida have the same arrest powers they have in their own county and assist in whatever manner that particular agency needs.”

When it comes to larger operations such as the Chiefland internet café raid, Tummond said Levy County deputies were onboard. “It was a simple phone call,” he said. “Can you give us a hand? And our response was sure, how many people do you need.”

According to Anderson, every customer, employee and owner was approached when the raid occurred. “We secured everybody inside, we got their IDs, made sure they weren’t wanted or had any warrants and we released them. We held all of the employees until Lt. Bolton could interview them, and then we released all of the employees.”

The CPD brought a 38-foot gooseneck trailer along with a forklift and Anderson said he rented an extra forklift to help unload. They seized 130 gambling tables, 400 computers and monitors, and $68,000. “The City went around to different places with officers and they loaded the trailer up and brought them back and we unloaded with the other forklift,” he said. Now the confiscated equipment and cash remains locked up in CPD’s evidence.

“We’re not charging any of the employees or patrons but the owners of those facilities are facing third degree felony charges,” Anderson said. “Everything is pending.” Those pending charges include Keeping  a Gambling House and Unlawful Possession of Illegal Gambling Devices.

Internet cafes can operate legally, Anderson said. “The bottom line is they are allowed with no cash exchange. There’s arcades where you win tickets and exchange them for prizes. They would have been legal. They were taking cash in, and paying cash out.”

Both Anderson and Tummond agree that the interagency agreement works both ways. “They did it to help us,” Anderson said about the agencies that stepped in and helped. “If they need my people, and I’ve got them, I’ll send them,” he said. “That’s how it works.”

And according to Tummond, “If a city police department in Levy County has a crime issue, it doesn’t just reside there in the city, it affects the people in the County.  We’re going to help them because it affects us and the citizens we serve.”