Officials tried to coerce landlord into shutting down legitimate operations, says vets.
Police raids last August on Internet cafe premises operated by the Allied Veterans of the World Inc. & Affiliates and offering sweepstake action (see previous InfoPowa reports) are currently under judicial examination, reports the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.
The raids resulted in the vets launching a legal action against the city of Longwood seeking an injunction prohibiting the city from interfering with the gaming centre and damages for the money that has been lost since the raids shut down operations.
The Allied Veterans of the World Inc. & Affiliates, which has its state headquarters in Jacksonville, claims that Longwood police and Seminole County deputy sheriffs raided gaming operations in Longwood and Forest City on August 20th last year.
The operation in Forest City was allowed to reopen the same night, but the Longwood location in a shopping centre remains closed.
The suit charges that city officials threatened the vet's landlord, GS Realty Inc., with criminal prosecution if it did not assist in closing the operation.
The newspaper confirms that Longwood police Sgt. Richard Griffin said in August that his agency notified owners of the shopping centre that they could face criminal charges if the business was allowed to reopen and illegal activities took place.
In addition to wrongly claiming that Allied Veterans was involved in an illegal activity, police exceeded the scope of a search warrant when conducting the raid, the suit alleges, pointing out that a judge in October ordered some items that were wrongly seized to be returned.
Other items taken in the raid were returned a day after the lawsuit was filed on February 2nd this year, said Kelly Mathis, an attorney for the Allied Veterans of the World Inc. & Affiliates. The city has refused to renew the group's business license, he said.
Longwood City Administrator Katrina Powell declined to comment because of the pending litigation.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the vet gaming centres operate under a loophole in Florida state law, claiming to be sweepstakes, similar to one a fast-food purveyor might conduct. While some law enforcement agencies have tried to stop these operations, others, such as the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, take the position that the centres are within the law.
Allied Veterans sued the state last year (see previous InfoPowa report), seeking a ruling that their operations did not violate state law, but a circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled the group must pursue its challenge seperately in each individual county.
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