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MIDVALE — Three Internet cafe businesses were simultaneously raided and shut down Thursday, the result of a yearlong investigation by Unified police into alleged online gambling.
Approximately 150 gaming consoles were seized in total from all three businesses. The consoles were capable of playing video poker and other games and all included betting and cash payouts, said Unified Police Lt. Lex Bell.
Although no one was arrested Thursday, Bell said detectives are focused on seven people who could face state or federal charges.
At 10 a.m., 45 officers — 15 at each location — served warrants at three Mouse Pad cafes, 38 W. 7200 South in Midvale; 1232 S. Redwood Road in Salt Lake City; and 4090 W. 5415 South in Kearns.
Bell said the raids were the result of an investigation that started about a year and a half ago by the department's Midvale Precinct Directed Enforcement Unit. The team had received information and complaints from residents and neighboring businesses about alleged illegal activity at the Midvale Mouse Pad, he said.
"Basically it attracted clientele that engaged in criminal activity," Bell said. "We had seen a signficant increase in drug arrests, stolen vehicles and just other property crimes occurring right in the immediate vicinity of these operations."
In Midvale, several of the neighboring businesses were pleased to see police at the Mouse Pad.
"Today is a great day," said Kim Mangalindan, owner of Xpress Cash Solution. "(I am) extremely happy. We've been waiting for this for years now. A lot of us are family business owners. I, myself, have lost 50 percent of my business since they moved in."
In October, an officer was conducting surveillance on a stolen car parked in front of the Midvale Mouse Pad when a man walked out of the cafe. That man, Jeremy Michael Bowden, 32, allegedly fired 12 times at an officer in a patrol car trying to stop him.
A backup officer arrived and returned fire but ended up hitting the wrong man, an innocent bystander. The victim survived the shooting. Bowden was arrested a short time later after a pursuit.
Rather than bust the one store at that time, detectives decided to investigate all three Mouse Pad locations and sent undercover officers into each business. What they discovered was illegal Internet gambling happening inside, according to Bell.
"When (customers) win, they were given cash," he said.
Contributing: Debbie Dujanovic, Shara Park, Paul Nelson