State Police are charging three men, among them Angel Pichardo, 54, owner of International Market, with operating illegal gambling machines.
Pichardo and one of the other men are also being charged for selling cigarrettes with counterfiet tax stamps.
Members of the State Police, The RI Division of Taxation and Pawtucket, Smithfield and Departments executed search warrants at Columbus Mini-Mart, 232 Columbus Ave., Pawtucket, DB Mart 200 Pleasant View Ave., Smithfield, and International Market, 165 Arnold St. Woonsocket this morning at 11:30 a.m.
Police seized an illegal gambling machine at International Market and 220 packs of cigarettes with fraudulent Rhode Island tax stamps. The tax stamps on the cigarette packs had been removed and a counterfeit Rhode Island tax stamp had been affixed in its place.
State Police Captain Michael Winquist said the gambling machine was a glass-faced quarter-drop machine with a moving ledge inside where large bills and coins rested. The object of the the gaming machine, he said, is to use dropped quarters to push the cash and coins into a tray in the bottom the player can collect the money from. The games are billed as games of skill. "We're alleging it's a game of chance," Winquist said. In this case, the chance of winning any significant prize is very low.
Had the games been set up to give winners tokens instead, it may not have been illegal, but the lure of a cash prize in such a game crosses the line. "In RI, it's illegal," Winquist said.
After finding the illegal gambling machine and counterfeit tax stamps, police arrested Angel Pichardo, age 54, of 320 Bennet St. #8, Woonsocket, the owner of International Market, charging him with: Forms of Gambling Prohibited, Forgery or Reuse Stamps, Sale of Unstamped Cigarettes and Import Cigarettes with Intent to Evade Tax.
At the Columbus Mini-Mart in Pawtucket, police located and seized an illegal gambling machine. They also seized several illegal tax stamped cigarettes from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Approximately 1,300 packs of cigarettes were seized, with at least 220 of those packs having obliterated tax stamps. Each pack of obliterated tax stamps carries a felony charge. Members also seized marijuana and more than $12,000 in United States currency.
Police also arrested Amit Patel 26, of 9 West Cute St., Pawtucket, at the Columbus Mini-Mart. He was charged with with Forms of Gambling Prohibited, Forgery or Reuse Stamp, Sale of Unstamped Cigarettes, Import Cigarettes with Intent to Evade Tax and Possession of Marijuana.
At the Smithfield DB Mart, police found that an illegal gambling machine had recently been removed, however, the operator of the establishment was charged as a result of the investigation. Police arrested Muhammad Ghazi, 46, of 459 Broadway, Methuen, MA, and charged him with Forms of Gambling Prohibited.
Patel was given $1,000 surety bail. Pichardo and Ghazi were released on personal recognizance.
The charges are the result of an investigation spurred by a patron of one of the three area convenience stores who reported the illegal gambling machines. State Police investigated the case for two months before making the arrests this morning. During the investigation, members of the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit, operating undercover, played the gambling machines in the
respective convenience stores. As a result, search warrants were obtained as
well as arrest warrants for two of the three store owner/operators.