Investigators said they have charged dozens of suspects after seizing almost 100 illegal video poker machines in Pitt County.
According to the Pitt County Sheriff's Office, they received several complaints about the machines, prompting an undercover operation called "Pot of Gold" that began on Oct. 30.
An undercover investigator entered several convenience stores throughout Pitt County, played the video poker machines, and received payouts, the Sheriff's Office stated.
By Jan. 7, the Pitt County Sheriff's Office executed 22 search warrants, and the Greenville Police Department executed an additional seven.
According to the Sheriff's Office, deputies seized 78 machines from 22 stores outside Greenville, along with $33,185.35.
We traveled around Pitt County in an attempt to talk to owners who have been charged. Many of them declined to speak on camera because they had either hired lawyers, or were planning to. However, one man decided to talk to us. That man is Mahmoud Salameh, owner of KP Mini Mart in Greenville. Salameh says officials allege he is a "video poker kingpin".
"As everyone else, we lease our machines from different operators in the area," said Salameh. However, he is one of two people charged with manufacture/sell/lease slot machines, aid and abet operating video gaming machines, and aid and abet gambling.
When asked what Salameh would have done had he been warned, he said he would have "pulled 'em out right away. You know, like, no you ain't got time for the drama, the unnecessary charges."
Not only was Salameh upset about not being warned, he was angered by how the bust went down. "It's a ridiculous experience. Bullies, complete bullies, I tried to pull out my cell phone to record them, what was going on. They took my phone, deleted the footage," he said, of Greenville Police Officers.
We reached out to Greenville Police Chief Hassan Aden regarding the allegations that his officers erased videos from Salameh's cell phone. Aden urged Salameh to file a formal complaint with his department.
Officials with the Pitt County Sheriff's Office, the lead department on the operation, said business owners were not warned because the machines have been illegal for years and the owners should have been aware of that.
In all, 35 warrants have been issued by the Sheriff's Office. Those who possessed five or more video poker machines have been charged with felonies, said investigators. Those with less than five machines have been charged with misdemeanors. Additional charges will be filed against the owners of the machines, deputies said.
The following have been charged with with felony operating more than five video gaming machines/gambling:
- Mofid Abdullah Obeid, of Greenville;
- Abdulwahed Abdullah Obeid, of Greenville;
- Abdullah Saleh Obeid, of Greenville;
- Teresea Randolph, of Greenville;
- Michelle Lewandowski Manning, of Ayden;
- Fathi Ali Muhssen, of Greenville.
The following have been charge with misdemeanor operating less than 5 video gaming machines/gambling:
- Farid Oulahchoum, of Greenville;
- Saleh Mohamed Alamari, of Greenville;
- Ahmed MR Seyam, of Greenville;
- Khalil Obeid, of Winterville;
- Angela Faith Bateman, of Greenville;
- Arve Eng, of Greenville;
- Kimberly Stock Gurganus, of Stokes;
- Jeffrey Allen Fisher, of Farmville;
- Danny Earl Cross, ?of Grimesland;
- Natividad Meraz Martinez, of Ayden;
- Rabeh Aref Muhammad, of Greenville;
- Sayed Zeidan, of Winterville;
- Ashrad H Zidan, of Greenville;
- Fouad Ahmad Ismael, of Wilson;
- Zeidan Asaad Zeida, of Greenville;
- Anwar Yahya Qatabi, of Greenville;
- Salah Fathi Abushawish, of Ayden;
- Kirankumar Vinu Patel, of Greenville;
- Bhavesh Vinubhai Patel, of Greenville;
- Vinubhai Chandubhai Patel, of Greenville;
- Pratik Ranjitbhai Patel, of Greenville;
- Ranjitbha Umedbhai Patel, of Greenville;
- Ehab Jamel Rahman, of Raleigh;
- Alah Jamil Rahman, ?of Winterville;
- Daoud Sam Rizek, of Greenville;
- Eyad Khalid Zeidan, of Greenville;
- Khaled Sudki Zeidan, of Greenville.
In addition, warrants have been obtained charging two men with manufacture/sell/lease slot machines, aid and abet operating video gaming machines, and aid and abet gambling. According to the Sheriff's Office, the suspects are Mahmoud Mustafa Salameh, ?of Greenville, and William Jerry Rhodes, of Bethel.