Everett police are seeking criminal charges against the operators of the closed Ferry Cyber Skill Arcade after 12 video gambling machines were seized from the business last month, Police Chief Steven A. Mazzie said.
A small amount of cash and credit cards also was taken by police from the arcade, located at 365 Ferry St., Mazzie said.
Police allege the video machines, billed as “sweepstakes” devices that award prepaid credit cards as prizes, amounted to an illegal lottery game, police said.
The games seized were video displays of either slots or poker-themed games.
“It’s a scheme to hide that gambling is the predominant attraction,” Mazzie said. “It’s a violation of the law.”
Mazzie identified three people involved in the business, whom police will seek charges against: Grace and Tony Daniels, a married couple from Saugus; and Mehrdad Roostaie of Needham.
Each will be charged with conspiracy to violate state gambling laws, promoting an illegal lottery, and maintaining a gaming apparatus, Mazzie said. Roostaie also will be charged with keeping a building for the purposes of illegal gaming, the chief added.
Attempts to reach the Daniels and Roostaie for comment were unsuccessful.
There is no phone number listed for either Daniels in Saugus. A man who identified himself only as Jim, and who said he was a friend of Roostaie, returned a telephone message left at the home of Roostaie’s mother.
He said Roostaie was traveling out of state, and that he was not aware Roostaie operated an arcade in Everett.
Roostaie is listed as the owner and manager of the business, according to corporate filings at the secretary of state’s office. Grace Daniels is listed as an employee.
The Ferry Street property is owned by Roos Co. LLC, which lists Roostaie as its president, the filing shows.
A handwritten sign on the door March 18 stated: “We will reopen after license issue resolved.”
According to state law, arcades may give noncash prizes for skee ball, pinball, and other games that require skill. But games of chance such as those found at the Everett shop — which can be licensed solely by the State Lottery Commission — cost money to play and make random payouts.
“There were brand new machines in there,” Mazzie said. “They are in violation of the law. There are going to be charges coming out.”
Summonses for Roostaie and Tony and Grace Daniels have been mailed from Malden District Court, said Ann Marie Lyons, an assistant clerk magistrate. An arraignment date is set for April 25, she said.
The raid on Ferry Street follows an ongoing investigation by Everett police into illegal gambling machines in the city. During the last year, police have seized 37 machines from social clubs and corner variety stores and $13,000 in cash, Mazzie said.
“We’re trying to send a message that you can’t set up shop here in Everett,” he said.
Mazzie said the crackdown has nothing to do with a billion-dollar resort casino proposed for the former Monsanto chemical factory site in the city, backed by Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn.
“It’s not related at all,” he said. “A lot of these games have been around for years in private clubs. Some of them are very old, and some are newer ones, like this guy had.”
Mazzie said police became aware of the Ferry Cyber Skill Cafe through advertisements for the business. Signs touting games of skill and the chance to win free credit cards popped up around the city, Mazzie said.
Everett detectives visited the business prior to its opening to discuss the machines, and left a message for Roostaie to contact police, he said
“We let them know that we had seen similar machines in the area, and that the owners of the machines have faced criminal charges,” he said. “We were pretty much putting the olive branch out there. He never called.”
The arcade’s alleged lottery surprised city licensing officials. In December, Tony Daniels applied for an entertainment license with the city’s licensing commission, chairman Philip Antonelli said.
“They came in and said they were going to have a family entertainment center, with skee ball and games like that,” Antonelli said.
Antonelli said the three-member commission did not have to hold a public hearing or vote on the application.
“It’s not a votable license,” he said.
The arcade was issued a permit for 10 games, and paid a $50 per-game annual fee to the commission, Antonelli said.
“Come to find out, what they put in there were poker machines,” he said.