July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Hinckley Township man indicted on 9 felony counts

CLEVELAND — A Hinckley Township resident was indicted on nine felony counts Wednesday in Cuyahoga County for allegedly marketing the software used in Internet Sweepstakes Cafes.

Maria Russo, public information officer of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, said George Georgekopoulos, 37, is charged with one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony; two counts of conspiracy, a second-degree felony; one count of gambling, a fifth-degree felony; and five counts of money laundering, a third-degree felony. He could receive a maximum of 26 years in prison.

Georgekopoulos was one of 10 people and seven companies indicted on related charges, Russo said, including his brother, Pete Georgekopoulos, 39, of Stow.

County Assistant Prosecutor J.D. May said the charges target those responsible for manufacturing the software as well as those selling it in Cuyahoga County.

Of the county’s 51 operating Internet Cafes, May said, 18 have been using the software, called VS2, which is manufactured in New Jersey. Those cafes were sent cease and desist orders, he said, but have not been charged.

May said Georgekopoulos, his brother and one other defendant own Elite Entertainment Inc., which is doing business as VS2 Marketing Group.

“The only thing the corporation does is accept checks for VS2 in New Jersey and redirect checks to themselves,” May said.

While there is no legal definition of a sweepstakes or Internet cafe, they are largely known for selling time cards, or phone cards, for customers to use to gamble or play games online to be entered into sweepstakes through the business.

In March, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued an opinion calling for regulation of the cafes.

While sweepstakes cafes are not illegal, May said gambling laws apply.

“These are basically casinos on computer screens,” May said. “People are going in to use these places to gamble.”

George Georgekopoulos’ arraignment is scheduled for Friday.

Russo said eight agencies were involved in the investigation that led to the indictments, including the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Marshal Service.

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.