Three business owners have been ordered to remove illegal video gambling machines that were paying out cash, after compliance checks by the and the state Department of Revenue.
Two of the business owners also sold cigarettes and tobacco products purchased from Illinois and did not have a Wisconsin tax stamp, police said.
“We’re assisting the Department of Revenue in their investigation and we are following up to make sure they are complying,” said Caledonia Police Detective Melissa Stardy.
State and police officials inspected , 600 Four Mile Rd.; , 6900 State Highway 31, , 3100 6 Mile Road; and 601 Four Mile Rd. Akil Ajmeri owns Ayra’s and Deli-Food Xpress.
What police found
Amandeep Mahal, owner of Four Mile Food & Liquor, just received his liquor license in October. He had several video gaming machines, which he was told needed to be removed. He had eight boxes of cigarettes that did not have the Wisconsin tax stamp on them. He told police that he had purchased the old inventory from the previous owner, which is also illegal, according to the report.
Mahal declined to comment.
Patch also called Mian Jalil, owner of Four Mile Petroleum, but no one returned the call.
A DOR investigator asked Ajmeri if he had gambling machines in his stores, Deli-Food Xpress and Arya’s, and he said no. However, Stardy indicated in her report that she knew Ajmeri had them there. He was ordered to remove them as well.
Three video gambling machines were found in Ayra’s. Ajmeri told police that he rents space for the gambling machines to Winner’s Amusement for $100 a month, that he doesn’t receive any money from the machines and he wasn’t aware that he couldn’t have them, according to the report.
Patch tried to reach Ajmeri, but he did not return the call.
All of the businesses have a Class A liquor license, which is what makes their gaming machines an issue.
Running afoul of the law
Under state law, gambling of any type is prohibited in businesses with retail Class A liquor licenses, which allows them to sell alcohol that is not consumed on the premises. DOR or law enforcement officials can arrest the licensee and charge them with a felony for having any video gaming in their business.
In all of the Caledonia cases, the special agent with the DOR gave the business owners five to seven days to get rid of the machines, according to a Caledonia police report.
Police also seized the Illinois-purchased cigarettes from the businesses. Illinois taxes cigarettes at 18 percent, Stardy said, while Wisconsin's cigarette tax is 71 percent.
“The law also says that if you are going to sell cigarettes and tobacco products in Wisconsin that they have to be purchased from distributors in Wisconsin,” Stardy said.
Caledonia Police Chief Toby Schey said he’s not certain about the intent of the business owners who purchased the cigarettes from Illinois.
“I think some of these businesses are part of bigger enterprises,” Schey said. “So the thinking is that if they can go buy 100 cases of product… then you get a better price. We’re not sure if the intent was to defraud the Department of Revenue or not.”
Schey said the state wants voluntary compliance in terms of businesses getting rid of the machines, but where the case will go from here is unclear.
“We really need to know what the DOR’s position is on this,” Schey said. “What is the state’s position, will the DA prosecute these cases? We also need to know what is the village’s position? And what is the (village's) Legislative and Licensing Committee’s position? And what’s the heartbeat of the community on this?
“I think from the state’s standpoint, it’s seen as a revenue source. But if we enforce this, are we going to have the backing we need or are we spinning our wheels?”
Schey said he'll be submitting the police reports to the Legislative and Licensing Committee and the members of that committee will need to decide whether the owners will need to come in front of them to discuss the issue.
At this point, the investigation by the Department of Revenue will continue.