Several Arrested in “Sweepstakes” Operation Raids, One Owner Speaks Out
SPRING HILL – Game of skill or game of chance, that’s what one former sweepstakes business owner says she thought was the rule before she was arrested this month on illegal gambling charges.
Sweepstakes businesses are peppered all over Spring Hill, but Vice and Narcotics Detectives with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office are making their rounds, again, in an attempt to shut them down.
Former owner of Diamond Dust Hi Five, 58-year-old Lisa Brown, is one of at least four business owners to be charged this month for running a place of illegal gambling and violating other gambling laws.
Hi Five was raided on February 6th but Brown wasn’t charged until yesterday and has since posted a $3,000 bond.
Shocked by her arrest, Brown explains she had no idea that her games were violating the law. Brown tells RNRF that she only had Fish Games that are “games of skill not games of chance.”
Brown further stated that she had been in operation for over a year and a half and that investigators knew exactly what kind of games were in her facility. Brown says she’s retained Attorney Peyton Hyslop to defend her.
Butter’s Place, Clicks Fish Zone, and Fun Zone were also shut down and since the operation began, Alfred DiGiovanni, 42, Genevieve DiGiovanni, 79, and Jonnine Rollins, 27, have all been arrested on gambling charges.
Jonnine Rollins is the daughter of Anthony Alascia who was among 57 arrested in the 2013 Allied Veterans racketeering and money-laundering scandal.
Officials say arrests are forthcoming after Fun Zone was raided yesterday by Vice Detectives. During the investigation, multiple computerized games that look similar to casino slot machines were discovered, say officials.
Detectives learned that these businesses are laundering money to commit tax evasion and fraud.
RNRF stopped by one Sweepstakes this afternoon that is still in operation, but we were unable to speak to the owners. The business had several games similar to those that are believed to be illegal by local authorities, but so far, they have not been targeted by Vice Detectives.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops.
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