• Store feet away from youth center part of major illegal gambling operation, police say

    By: Mark Winne


    ATLANTA - A joint undercover operation has busted up an illegal gambling operating in the middle of The Bluff, police say. The store sits just feet away from a youth center.

    Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and officers with the Atlanta Police Department raided a corner store in the English Avenue neighborhood. Investigators said the store was one of three locations to get raided Tuesday.

    GBI Special Agent in Charge Cindy Ledford said in the heart of the English Avenue community, countless drug users have bet their lives on heroin and lost.

    A corner store had been a hub of traditional gambling until raided by the GBI and Atlanta police after a joint undercover operation requested by APD.

    Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne watched as officers took a man into custody. He asked the man if he broke the law, but the man would only say no.

    “The man that you saw taken into custody operates this location,” Ledford told Winne.


    Investigators said the store was giving cash back for winnings from the store’s video gambling terminals.

    “They’re legal to have in the store. They’re licensed appropriately so they can have them and people can come in and play them. But when you play and then when you get your ticket, you have to redeem your ticket for store merchandise. Anything that’s in the store with the exception of alcohol, you can’t get alcohol, tobacco, firearms or cash,” Ledford said.

    “They were given cash?” Winne asked Ledford.

    “Repeatedly,” Ledford said.

    Ledford said Yohannes Zerea would be charged with felony commercial gambling.

    He told Winne that he has not paid out cash just store credit as the law allows.

    “Gambling addiction is a huge problem across the state,” Ledford said.

    “Did your undercover people encounter people who were dropping their whole paycheck here?” Winne asked Ledford.

    “Sure. Every day when we’re out playing we see that,” Ledford said. “Hopefully we can make a difference here in this area.”

    “We want to be a part of anything that influences the neighborhood in a positive way,” said Lt. Karl Baldini with the Atlanta Police Department. “We have a youth center a stone's throw from where this place is operating illegally. So, we want to do everything we can to keep crime low and keep bad guys from influencing the good community members over here.”

    Ledford said the GBI and APD hit three stores simultaneously across Atlanta for the same thing on Tuesday.

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