EL PASO, Ark.– The White County Sheriff’s Office says multiple gas stations were raided Friday afternoon for an illegal gambling bust.
According to Sheriff Phillip Miller, numerous gas stations across Arkansas are paying out cash from their gambling machines, instead of giving store credit.
“These places are paying out cash which is illegal,” said Sheriff Miller.
Miller says they confiscated 44 machines from the Exxon in El Paso. He says the majority of the machines were being hidden from the public in a back room.
“This is an illegitimate game,” said Miller. “What we see is really just the tip of the iceberg.”
He says five different gas stations in several Arkansas counties are all believed to be connected.
The White County Sheriff’s Office, Searcy Police, Stone County Sheriff’s Office, Marshall Police, and a few other agencies were involved, according to Miller.
He says two of the busted gas stations were in Searcy, one in El Paso, one in Mountain View, and another in Marshall.
“We already know with our investigation so far that there are some large amounts of cash,” said Miller.
Witnesses to one of the raids in Searcy describe it as ‘chaos’ on Friday.
“The police cars just came out of nowhere and I was like what is going on,” said Carrie Cloutier.
Cloutier says she watched as police detained multiple individuals, ATMs, gambling machines, and money safes.
“I figured they were going to get caught one of these days,” said Cloutier.
Miller says he worries the illegal activity taking place with the gambling machines could be a part of a larger issue like money laundering, or drug and sex trafficking.
“Our focus on the investigation from this point forward is what other criminal enterprise is being funded by this cash,” said Miller.
He says multiple employees were detained at the gas stations and around 100 of the machines were ripped from the various stores.
Miller says they are working to figure out which employees were directly involved in the illegal gambling, and which were ‘innocent employees.’