First arrests made for internet cafe ordinance violations

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Posted February 9, 2021 |

On Monday, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office made the first two arrests for alleged violations of the recently passed ordinance prohibiting simulated gambling devices, according to a sheriff’s press release.

Jessica Bermudez, 38, and Rimon Joudi, 45, were charged with 86 counts of violating the ordinance, according to reports.

The Marion County Commission unanimously approved the ordinance on Feb. 2 and it went into effect the next day. The ordinance made it “unlawful for any person to manage, supervise, maintain, provide, produce, possess, or use a simulated gambling device for commercial, promotional, or pecuniary gain or purpose.”

Bermudez and Joudi were arrested at the Blackjack Arcade, 12496 S U.S. Highway 301. While the arcade has a Belleview address, it lies within the county. The ordinance only applies to game rooms, sometimes called internet cafes, in the county.

Sheriff’s official state a copy of the ordinance was hand-delivered to Joudi at the arcade on Feb. 4. But when two deputies in plainclothes returned on Monday, Bermudez reportedly approached them and pointed them to the games, including slot machine-style machines, according to reports.

After the deputies used the machines, two other officers entered and arrested Bermudez and Joudi.

Both were booked into the Marion County Jail, where they are each being held on $43,000.00 bonds.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office asked for the prohibition based on public safety concerns.

Tim McCourt, the sheriff’s office’s attorney, said internet cafes deal in large sums of cash, and security is often lax or non-existent, making them targets for armed robberies.

McCourt said a recent armed robbery at one location included the gunman pointing a weapon at a pregnant woman and a 9-year-old girl. It was the fourth internet cafe robbery since December.

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