For the second time in five years a Columbus convenience store operator has been charged with commercial gambling for allegedly making illegal cash payouts to customers.
Man Deep Singh, 30, and his father Kulwant Singh, 57, turned themselves in Wednesday after police connected three of Kulwant’s businesses to fenced stolen goods.
Police say they charged the father and son with commercial gambling after a yearlong investigation revealed managers at the 1045 Floyd Road Food Mart and the 3512 Buena Vista Road Pyramid Food Mart gave out at least $600 worth of cash prizes to customers using electronic gaming machines.
Investigators last charged Man Deep Singh with commercial gambling in the Pyramid Food Mart on Feb. 20, 2009, also charging his wife, Jaswinder Kavr, then 24. Court records show they were indicted Jan 19, 2010, but their charges were dead-docketed Feb. 25, 2010, meaning the district attorney’s office declined to pursue the case.
District Attorney Julia Slater said the case was dead-docketed because of factual issues. In a 2012 email to the Ledger-Enquirer, she wrote that police had documented “no cash payout on the day in question, no cash payout ever to the officers, no video evidence of any cash payout, and no evidence that the two defendants have ever paid cash to anyone.”
Critics then questioned Slater’s involvement because her campaign contributions that year showed she’d received $1,000 from Ghotra Inc., a corporation doing business as the Pyramid Food Mart. Slater denied any conflict of interest. She’d got a $200 contribution from Ghotra when she first ran for office in 2008.
Besides commercial gambling, Man Deep Singh now faces a charge of theft by receiving stolen property. He and his father, who were accompanied by an attorney, were released on bond soon after their arrests.
Burglary and Theft Unit detectives padlocked the doors of the Lucky Food Mart at 2026 Floyd Road, the Food Mart and the Pyramid Food Mart after simultaneously raiding the businesses on May 28. Gurdeep Singh, Kulwant Singh’s other son, was charged with two counts of theft by receiving stolen property.
“Each business has been seized and is going to be placed under the Columbus Police Department’s authority and custody,” Sgt. Joe Weatherford said during a May news conference. “This is the penalty for racketeering as well as commercial gambling charges.”
Weatherford said Thursday that a Superior Court judge has appointed a “receiver” to oversee the businesses while they’re in police custody.
Police say the Singhs used the stores as a front for buying stolen goods taken from hundreds of Columbus homes. Undercover officers determined some stolen flat-screen TVs, game stations and other electronics were sold only hours after they were taken, Weatherford said.
Weatherford said the district attorney, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Lottery Commission and the Internal Revenue Service aided in the probe.
He said the investigation may lead to charges that suspects violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, alleging they were involved in an ongoing criminal enterprise.