The takedown of the sweepstakes machine industry intensified on Friday with the arrests of four people.
KHON2 has learned that nine people in all have been named in what could be Honolulu’s largest gambling indictment.
It comes just days after a federal judge ruled that sweepstakes machines are illegal.
KHON2 crews were there when some of the suspects turned themselves into police including Tracy Yoshimura, the state’s largest distributor of those machines.
“We tried to do the things the right way all along,” Yoshimura said.
Yoshimura was the first to bring sweepstakes machines into Hawaii, and is still the largest distributor in the state through his company PJY Enterprises.
On Wednesday, a federal court judge issued a ruling: “This court concludes … that the use of the products direct sweepstakes terminals constituted gambling.” That set the stage for Friday’s arrests.
“Being that the judge just released the ruling two days ago, no nobody knew what the legal status of it was until the court determined it two days ago. We shut down equipment immediately after it this morning by 7 o’clock everything was shut off,” Yoshimura said.
But KHON2 went to Prize World in Aiea on Friday night and saw that it’s back open again. Prize World is one of six sweepstakes arcades owned by Yoshimura.
It was previously owned by Eugene Simeona who’s also named in the indictment. He was arrested Friday afternoon at HPD’s main station. Simeona was booked on 41 counts including money laundering, promoting gambling, and illegal owning or operating of a business. He was released after posting $200,000 bail.
Simeona currently owns two sweepstakes locations including the Lucky Touch 2 at Stadium Mall, which is now closed. He told KHON2 he unplugged all of the machines after the court’s ruling.
Six employees were also indicted, including Alexander Alejandro, who was arrested Friday afternoon. He was charged with eight counts, including promoting gambling and possession of a gaming device. He was released after posting $50,500 bail.
Another employee, Gary Danley Jr. was also arrested Friday night. He was booked on 13 counts including promoting gambling and possession of a gaming device. His bail is set at $50,000.
As for Yoshimura, he was also arrested on Friday night. He was charged with 117 counts including promoting gambling, and illegal owning or operating of a business. His bail is set at $250,000.
“I don’t see why they indicted me at all but we’ll just see what the future brings,” Yoshimura said.
With those arrests, that still leaves five more people named in the indictment that have yet to be arrested, including four employees and a man who owns three sweepstakes locations.
The arrests are the culmination of a three-year investigation that included several agencies: the Honolulu Police Department, the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office, and the State Attorney General’s office.
The Honolulu City Council is moving on a measure to outlaw the machines. The bill is set to be heard again Wednesday afternoon at Kapolei Hale.