Internet Cafe Cash Seizure

Citrus County Sheriff's Office detectives in February 2019 seized a total $32,592 in cash during a raid at two internet cafes suspected of hosting illegal gambling operations.

Internet cafés in Citrus County would be shut down and the operators severely fined or jailed if county commissioners Tuesday approve a proposed ordinance.

County Commissioner Jeff Kinnard is broaching the topic because sheriff’s office representatives contacted him about these cafés becoming re-established in the county.

Kinnard said these cafés often allow illegal gambling and lead to a host of other undesirable behaviors and criminal activities.

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Kinnard will ask the county attorney to create an ordinance, similar to an existing one in Marion County, for adoption. If passed, it would make them unlawful within the unincorporated areas of Citrus County.

“The sheriff’s office just wants them shut down,” Kinnard said. “They don’t want them operating here.”

Lt. Craig Callahan with the sheriff’s office said there is one internet café that has been identified in Citrus County and it’s in Lecanto.

But the intent is to prevent more from opening.

The state legislature in 2019 reduced the penalty for operating these places from a felony to a misdemeanor, which carries a 60-day jail term or $500 fine.

That emboldened operators who have started opening up again.

The new ordinance would allow operators to be fined per machine. So if a café owner had 30 games, the penalty would be a $15,000 fine and five years in jail.

“It is currently illegal right now to operate them,” Callahan said. “We just want to strengthen the ability to stop them from popping up.”

The county commission meeting is at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the Citrus County Courthouse, 110 N. Apopka Ave., Inverness.

Also on the agenda:

- The board will discuss its legislative priorities for 2021-22. Leading the list is the Suncoast Parkway extension from County Road 486 to Red Level on U.S. 19.

- Commissioners will hear from Josh Wooten, president/CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, who will provide an update on the CARES Act and a request from the YMCA for additional funding.

- The commission will discuss and vote on developing a list of transportation priorities to be submitted to the Hernando-Citrus Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). 

To view the entire agenda, visit http://citruscountyfl.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=2686

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.