CONYERS - Two Covington men have been arrested in connection with an alleged commercial gambling operation in Rockdale County, according to the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office.
RCSO Sgt. Matthew Wolfe reported that the Rockdale County Vice and Narcotics Unit on Friday arrested Grant Steele, 52, of 210 Capeton Court, Covington, and charged him with keeping a place of gambling, commercial gambling, possession of gambling devices and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Charles Johnson, 75, of 2681 Fairview Road in Covington, was also arrested Friday and charged with commercial gambling.
Investigators with the vice and narcotics unit seized 17 electronic video match-up games, a Luger Tech-9 machine gun and approximately $10,000 in cash after executing a search warrant.
Steele is believed to have run the gambling organization from a storefront at 1365-A Iris Drive in the Salem Gate Shopping Center in Conyers.
Wolfe said the business, Wigs-Things & Amusements, was a front for the illegal activities.
"Grant Steele is suspected of running the "day-to-day' gambling operation," Wolfe said in a press statement released Monday. "He had a fake store front for a fake wig business. In the back of the business were 17 video poker match-up games, (and) Grant Steele was paying cash to the winners."
Wolfe added that the storefront advertises Internet orders only and the front door stays locked.
Wolfe said investigators believe Steele had been running a commercial gambling operation for about two years. He said the sheriff's office first received a tip about a place on Salem Road, but when they investigated that particular business, they did not find any games.
"Grant Steele apparently broke off partnership with the other guy, opened his own place and moved to Salem Gate," Wolfe said.
Wolfe said investigators believe Steele had been operating the gambling site from Salem Gate since the first of the year.
Wolfe said that unlike gaming machines found in many convenience stores that pay non-cash prizes, Steele was paying winners in cash.
"This guy had 17 machines and he had no prizes to give out whatsoever," Wolfe said.
Wolfe said that Johnson worked for Steele and was paid about $400 to $500 a week to pay winners.
He said Steele maintained logs of daily cash flow. According to one ledger, Wolfe said, approximately $2,400 was paid out in winnings.
Wolfe said the investigation into the gambling operation is continuing and more arrests may be forthcoming. Several people were inside the location and playing the machines when investigators executed the search warrant, including six adults and a 10-year-old girl.
Aimee Jones can be reached at email@example.com.