September 7, 2021 - Shelby County Constables have taken action to halt an alleged illegal gambling operation Sunday, September 5, 2021, which was ongoing in the northern part of the county.
A total of 16 gambling machines and a large sum of money were taken into evidence by the officials.
The constables were joined by other law enforcement officers to simultaneously serve warrants at two locations, in Precinct 3 and Precinct 4, believed to be connected in the illegal operation of gambling venues.
At around 7:30pm, law enforcement officials moved in on Express Stop fuel station/Valero located on North George Bowers Drive in Tenaha and a house located on the 100 block of CR 3533.
Both locations were moved on without incident, and while officers held the scene outside the house, other officers were interviewing people inside and inventorying its contents.
According to Josh Tipton, Constable Precinct 5, and Roy Cheatwood, Constable Precinct 3, the investigation into illegal gambling in Precinct 3 began around two months ago and through that investigation led the officers to the fuel station in Tenaha.
As the investigation continued to develop, the officers obtained information of illegal gambling and promotion of illegal electronic gaming devices.
According to the constables, for those playing games, instead of receiving a prize of not more than 10 times the amount charges to play the game or device or $5, whichever is less, as stated in Chapter 47 of the Penal Code relating to gaming, they were receiving cash as someone would in a casino. The constables stated, according to the Penal Code, that is illegal. (Read the statute by clicking here)
Through the use of probable cause and video evidence, the officers sought warrants, signed by a District Judge, and served those warrants on the store and the house. According to the constables, the same individual that owns the fuel station, also owns the house.
Constables Tipton and Cheatwood stated, further seizures may be sought as a result of their investigation, and a substantial amount of undisclosed cash has been discovered, which along with documentation, and electronic devices has been seized and taken to a secure location.
The constables stated their greatest concern involving both locations was the possibility of eventual armed robbery or homicide resulting from the illegal activities and the public knowledge of large sums of money being at those locations.
Reports have been received by the constables from family members of people gambling at the machines with "money they don't have," and the constables said they felt it their obligation and duty to shut down the operation.
No arrests have been made at this time.
The constables expressed appreciation to the Texas Department of Public Safety; Taylor Fanguy, Constable Precinct 4; Jamie Hagler, Constable Precinct 2; Scott Burkhalter, Tenaha Police Chief; and Billy Lusk, Timpson ISD Police.
They also thanked the citizens of their precincts, because without their help they couldn't have made the operation happen.
Special thanks was given to Dondi Tipton for getting up in the middle of the night to help haul the gaming machines to a secure location with his truck and trailer.