8 illegal casinos busted in Seminole County, sheriff says

Sheriff says 16 of 18 suspects arrested as part of monthslong investigation

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Eight illegal casinos were busted as a result of a monthslong investigation in Seminole County, according to the sheriff.

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said 16 of 18 suspects have been arrested as part of the investigation into illegal gaming in the county, which began in May after the sheriff’s office received a Crimeline tip.

“People have reported to Crimeline that they were gambling in an establishment and when they tried to get their proper payout, they were not able to receive the money that was owed to them, which, again, sparked our investigation here,” he said.

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The sheriff said 70% of those arrested live outside of the county and an “overwhelming majority of them have operated establishments like this in the past.” The suspects face charges of racketeering, keeping a house of gaming, delivering gaming machines and running an illegal lottery.

The following people were arrested in connection with the investigation:

  • Saba Alam, 32
  • Neal Anand, 26
  • Adelaida Asia, 51
  • Brandon Wayne Peter Caldwell I, 23
  • Aneka Metrell Mitchell, 52
  • Miguel Angel Vega Ruiz, 67
  • Vernon Santiago-Viera, 36
  • Melisa Elizabeth Spady, 62
  • Jordan Tanner, 26
  • Bansil Patel, 26
  • Kamleshkumar Rasikbhai Patel, 45
  • Maulik Patel, 34
  • Priyank J. Patel, 34
  • Ternika Lasaber Phillips, 34
  • Mitchell Ryan Engstrom, 22
  • Justin Malachi Melick, 37

The sheriff’s said arrest warrants were still outstanding for Arpitkumar Pravinbhai Pa Patel, 27, and Danielle Delinda Lopez, 32.

Lemma said the illegal casinos were operating “in a clandestine type of environment” in eight different locations. He said three were located in Altamonte Springs, two in Sanford, one in Casselberry and one in unincorporated Seminole County.

“Many cases, the strip plazas that they were in had either no markings at all or a misrepresentation of what the business was. One was listed as a pawn shop, another was listed as a marketing business, another as a billiards hall,” he said. “And when you would actually go up there as a customer, you would not be gained access into the establishment unless you are known to the operators that were on the inside.”

The sheriff said customers at these establishments would be locked inside and “the only way in and out is to be buzzed in.”

“The only difference here is they limited the amount that they would actually pay out, encouraging the people who clearly are probably battling their own dependency on gaming to come back on several different nights hoping that they would then, as they come back, play the games again,” Lemma said.

Lemma said the illegal casinos would capitalize on a group of people who may or may not know it’s illegal and believes most of the business came from word of mouth.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.