Three men will be prosecuted on charges of operating an illegal gambling operation across North Georgia and into Tennessee.
Dee Simon, David Longobardo and Joseph Mohwish all face charges under Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.
These charges -- traditionally used against organized crime and sometimes against gang members -- never have been prosecuted in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, according to several attorneys.
All three men will have a bench trial in Walker County Superior Court instead of a jury trial because of the nature of the charges, said McCracken Poston, Simon's defense attorney.
"It's fairly complicated issues," he said.
District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin didn't return calls seeking comment about the case.
A date hasn't been set, but attorneys said Simon, Longobardo and Mohwish could be tried as early as December.
University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson said RICO cases are more complex to prosecute because authorities must prove there was a pattern of illegal activity.
The Walker County Sheriff's Office first heard about a possible illegal gambling operation in September 2008 at a site called Pre-Paid Solutions, a police report shows.
When agents investigated the site on Wilson Road in Rossville, they discovered several illegal video poker and slot machines. After further investigation and talking with Mohwish, officers advised him to remove the machines, the report stated.
No further action was taken at the time, the report stated.
In January 2009, Dade County and state detectives began investigating another gambling site in Wildwood, Ga., also called Pre-Paid Solutions, after receiving several tips from Lookout Valley residents in Tennessee, an arrest warrant shows.
Dade County detectives went undercover, posing as gamblers, and began to play the machines, the report shows. First, detectives won $48 and were given a credit card that was activated with the amount from a local bank, the report states.
The detectives came back several times, sometimes winning money, other times losing, but every win was placed on a credit card, according to the report.
In February 2009, a search warrant was issued for the Wildwood location on U.S. Highway 11 and an employee confirmed that she spoke with another worker almost daily to arrange for money to be credited to players' credit cards, the report states.
Employees confirmed that Simon and Longobardo managed the businesses and they worked for Mohwish, according to the report.
Investigators also found documents and financial records linking Mohwish and Simon to other gambling businesses in the area.
Another search warrant showed illegal gambling activities at other locations, including Rossville, Wildwood, Ringgold and Dalton in Georgia and in East Ridge, the report states. Investigations at those locations also were conducted.
After the investigation, warrants were taken out in Walker County for all three men on March, 4, 2009.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...