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Two Internet cafes raided, investigated in Yuba City
Welfare benefits eyed
Yuba City police raided two Internet cafes on Wednesday suspected of letting customers use welfare benefits to gamble online.
Police served search warrants at the Bullseye Internet Cafe on Colusa Avenue and Coco's Internet & More on Bridge Street, Police spokeswoman Shawna Pavey confirmed.
"It is an ongoing investigation into the same owner at both locations," Pavey said. "It is suspected they were allowing people to use their (electronic) benefit cards to obtain cash to gamble."
Pavey declined to name the business owner, saying no arrests have been made and the investigation remains open.
According to Yuba City records, the Bullseye Internet Cafe is owned by Steve Maki, a Sacramento business man.
"Yeah, don't call me," Maki told the Appeal-Democrat before abruptly hanging up on Thursday.
The Yuba City raids occurred nearly two weeks after Maki was charged in Sacramento County Superior Court with two misdemeanor counts of maintaining illegal gambling operations. He is scheduled for arraignment April 10, according to court records.
One day before Maki was charged, he was named as a defendant in a lawsuit seeking, in part, a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to remove him from managing an Internet cafe on Cottage Way in Sacramento, according to online records for Sacramento County Superior Court.
Yuba City business records indicate Coco's Internet & More is registered to SMDL Inc., which, according to the California Secretary of State's Office, is a corporation registered on Watt Avenue in Sacramento.
Fred Whitaker, a manager at Coco's Internet & More, was furious with the raids, accusing police of "wasting" tax dollars and "costing Yuba City a lot of jobs."
"Directly and indirectly, they probably cost the city about 35 jobs," Whitaker said. "It's no wonder the drug industry is thriving in Yuba City."
When asked if company officials were allowing welfare recipients to use benefits for gambling, Whitaker said, "To my knowledge, no."
Police seized 70 computers, more than $10,000 in cash and two ATM machines, Pavey said.
The Bullseye Internet Cafe opened last March, but its business license expired in December, and there was no renewal application on file at City Hall in Yuba City.
Coco's Internet & More established its license in October, but formally closed it out on Thursday without explanation, city officials said.
Both businesses were closed Thursday.
Whitaker said whether Coco's opens again is a "question for law enforcement."
"I'm very disappointed," Whitaker said. "I think the police should find something better to do with their time."
Whitaker said, as far he knows, no wrongdoing occurred at the business.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat. Copy editor Harold Kruger contributed to this report.