Cuyahoga County

Raid in Brook Park Closes Illegal Internet Gambling Hall, Leads to Seizure of $1.2 Million

6/20/2013 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2013 

A raid by multiple law enforcement agencies that shuttered the Cyber Oasis, an Internet gambling parlor in Brook Park, also led to the seizure of bank accounts containing more than $1.2 million, said Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Daniel J. Kasaris, who helped coordinate the raid and related legal actions.

On June 14, a Grand Jury indicted Izdihar “Ester” Najjar, 40, of Avon, on nine counts of money laundering, five counts of possessing criminal tools, two counts gambling and two counts of operating a gambling house. Later that day, a team from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Parma Heights Police Department, the Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Service raided her Cyber Oasis gambling storefront on Smith Road. There they seized more than 100 video slot machines.

In conjunction with the raid, authorities also seized several bank accounts, Kasaris said. One belonged to Canada-based Pong Marketing, which made the software for Najjar’s gaming machines. It’s where Najjar deposited the company’s share of her illegal casino’s take. It contained more than $630,000, Kasaris said.

On June 17, 2013 Ohio Department of Public Safety agents, working with the Secret Service, postal inspectors and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office executed search warrants and seizure orders seizing an additional $600,000.00 from various bank accounts at the Lorain National Bank and Huntington Bank that belonged to Najjar personally and are alleged to be the proceeds of criminal activity.

“This underscores the fact that this is a gambling syndicate and a criminal enterprise, not the mom-and-pop operation that defenders of these Internet cafes would have you believe,’’ Kasaris said. He added that when Najjar was arrested at the Cyber Oasis, she was carrying $8,000 cash in her purse.
 
Investigators on the scene reported that roughly 40 to 45 people, mostly elderly, were at the Cyber Oasis at the time of the raid.

“Most were completely unaware that the cards they had purchased to use the machines could be used to make phone calls,’’ Kasaris said. “These people were there to gamble.’’Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty praised the team effort that shut down the Cyber Oasis and led to its owner’s arrest.

“I’m going to fulfill my promise to close every illegal gambling parlor and rip-off center in Cuyahoga County,’’ McGinty said. “We started with more than 50 of them operating. We’re down to a handful, and soon there will be none.’’

Najjar was arraigned on June 17. She pleaded not guilty and received a $5,000 bond. Her case has been assigned to Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn B. Friedland.

Contact: Joseph Frolik, Director of Communication and Public Policy or Maria (Pinzone) Russo, Public Information Officer, Phone: (216) 698-2819 http://prosecutor.cuyahogacounty.us      

Download a PDF of this release