Owners question raid by ALE at Internet location
By John Joyce
Published in News on May 13, 2014 1:46 PM
Julie Tillett and Johnny Coley are up in arms today after being forced to close the doors of their Internet sweepstakes business on N.C. 111 South last week.
State Alcohol Law Enforcement and FBI agents seized game machines, computers, an ATM and records from 111 Sweepstakes as part of an ongoing investigation into a Raleigh-based business man, David Ricky Godwin, and his company, Godwin Music RBG.
Legal documents allege illegal gambling on the part of Godwin and company.
Neither Coley nor Ms. Tillett has been charged with a crime.
Nor, to their knowledge, has Godwin.
Law enforcement did not "shut us down," Ms. Tillett emphasized. The store is closed because the machines were taken, she said.
"They took everything. We had some games that were leased from Mr. Godwin, but they took everything including the games that were not his," Ms. Tillett said.
Of the 80 machines 111 Sweepstakes had, only 12 were leased from Godwin.
Coley said he would have been more understanding if the agents had simply removed the machines owned by Godwin. Instead they took it all, leaving Coley and Ms. Tillett unable to operate their business.
"That ain't right. This is not the American way. I mean, we don't live in Russia," he said.
He said the agents arrived at the business just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, before he and Ms. Tillett had a chance to open for the day.
The agents executed a seven-page search warrant which they read to Ms. Tillett and Coley. The agents then made the pair sign the document.
The owners say they were not permitted to leave and were told to stay off of their phones.
Ms. Tillett said she called 911, but hung up.
Coley said a dispatcher called back and he answered, asking if they knew what was going on.
They said they did not, he said.
No help came.
"We had no rights to (call anybody). They told us to get off the phone," he said.
Ms. Tillett and Coley were made to wait three to four hours while agents went through their business, even going into Ms. Tillett's purse, unloading her legally owned firearm and seizing an undisclosed amount of cash she said belonged to her other business in Raleigh.
ALE referred phone calls for comment to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.
The investigation prompting the raid, and several others like it throughout the state Wednesday, revolves around Godwin and his family, named in the search warrants executed by the federal agents.
The warrants call for property from Jan. 1, 2009, to present, including financial documents, records, wire transfers, bank statements, canceled checks, deposit slips, clock registers, money orders, ledgers, keys, passwords and codes pertaining to computers and finances to be seized.
David Ricky Godwin, David Ricky Godwin Jr., Bonnie C. Godwin and Tracey E. Godwin are named in the warrant.
"They did not tell us a thing," Coley said.
He and Ms. Tillett say they employ four people who are now out of work because of the raid.
The lights, Internet and phones are still on at the business, which remains closed today.
Ms. Tillett and Coley maintain their machines, even those leased from Godwin, have been evaluated and are up to code.
Goldsboro police Chief Jeff Stewart confirmed his department investigated 111 Sweepstakes, along with other such establishments, in 2013 and found they were in compliance.
"They had at least one 'Pot of Gold' machine, which they were told to remove," Stewart said.
Ms. Tillett said that investigation, which was videotaped, took place in 2012 and the machines that were in violation with the law were removed immediately.
Ms. Tillett added that she recently received her tax bill from the city of Goldsboro and was set to pay the taxes and have her permit renewed. She plans to do just that unless otherwise instructed by the city.
"They should have given us a reason why," she said.