Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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March 18, 2013

Illegal gambling operation busted

JACKSONVILLE — There is absolutely no doubt — none whatsoever — that illegal gambling has been taking place at a  hidden den in downtown Jacksonville, authorities said.

The signs on the wall from management are as blatant as they come: “Max payout is $500,” reads one. “Luck of Irish hit for $266,” reads another.

This 30 x 30 gaming house has apparently been in use for some time. It is hidden in the back of a convenience store at 1207 W. Rusk behind a door marked “Lavatory.” (There is no bathroom there.) Inside, there were nine gambling devices — a mixture of running video machines, slot machines, and eight liners.

Early Friday, Jacksonville Police executed search and arrest warrants on the owner of the store, Saeed Shahzad Oehme, 58, of Jacksonville.

Oehme was arrested on suspicion of “Keeping A Gambling Place,” a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both.

Under the Texas Penal Code, a person commits this offense by using or permitting someone else to use owned property specifically for gambling purposes.

A judge is expected to set bail for Oehme in Jacksonville Jail on Saturday morning.

During the raid that followed the serving of the warrants, Jacksonville police came across a man gambling in the back room. He was allowed to leave without incident.

A total of 15 machines throughout the building and $400 in cash from the machines was seized.

Cherokee County Central Appraisal District records indicate Oehme owns property locally, but it is unnamed and only lists “Highway 79 W” as an address. Oehme's driver's license lists the address of the store as his home address of record.

The arrest is a victory for the department — and is expected to put a crimp in local gambling traffic, according to Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel and Jacksonville Police Sgt. Jason Price.

The chief said Oehme has been thumbing his nose at authorities in connection with illegal gambling for quite some time.

Sgt. Price added that police have been investigating this case for some time to make sure the charge sticks.

“Hopefully, this will wake up the others in town who are doing the same thing,” Sgt. Price said.

News of the arrest online prompted what appeared to be a few accidental gambling “confessions” from Facebook readers.

“Well, fine,” wrote one reader. “We can't even play anymore. There will be others.”

A second remark seemed more tongue-in-cheek.

“Whoop!” wrote another FB reader. “Close call!”

 A cursory review did not indicate Oehme has any criminal history, although records show he was apparently taken to small claims court more than once in California.

Arresting Oehme effectively shut down his store, which authorities surrounded with yellow crime scene tape Friday as they continued their search of the premises.

Agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, contacted by Jacksonville police, are expected to initiate their own investigation because the convenience store sells alcohol.

The store adjoins a local wholesale business also owned by Oehme.

Sgt. Price — working the case on his day off —  said Oehme appeared surprised, perhaps even startled, when the warrant was served to him Friday.

"He looked at me and said, 'Oh!'" the sergeant said. "After that he didn't say very much."

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