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Courts

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2 admit roles in Internet gambling ring

Rae

The remaining defendants connected with an illegal Internet sweepstakes operation pleaded guilty and were sentenced Thursday in Allen Superior Court.

Edward G. Miers, 26, and Matthew Rae, 28, both pleaded guilty to felony professional gambling charges. They were each sentenced to a year on unsupervised probation.

The two men were charged, along with Florida resident Stephen Carnes, 48, with corrupt business influence, promoting professional gambling, professional gambling and money laundering. They were affiliated with Lincoln Plaza Internet Sensations LLC. The company was also charged, as was Carnes' other company, Buckwheat Holdings LLC.

As the representative for the company, Lincoln Plaza Internet Sensations LLC, Carnes entered a guilty plea earlier this month to promoting professional gambling. Along with the guilty plea, the company, through Carnes, will pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit its interest in the 51 computers seized in the investigation.

The computers will be donated to area charities: The Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Club, the Boy Scouts of Allen County (Anthony Wayne Council) and the local chapter of the Girl Scouts, according to court documents.

Carnes also pleaded guilty to professional gambling and was sentenced to a year on probation.

Lincoln Plaza Internet Sensations sold Internet "air time" for $5 an hour.

For each hour they bought, customers received five free sweepstakes credits, which could then be used to place bets on Vegas-style games accessed from Lincoln Plaza Internet Sensations computers.

Winners received $1 a winning credit, according to court documents.

A year ago, state officials identified the sweepstakes machines as "electronic gaming devices" and they were prohibited even in businesses authorized to have pull tab-type games.

In exchange for their guilty pleas, the additional charges were dismissed.

Jerod Hochstedler, 36, was charged with professional gambling and money laundering in connection with the case, but those charges were dismissed earlier this month.

Since Indiana Gaming Commission agents raided the businesses in December, attorneys representing the businesses sued the state of Indiana in both the U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne and Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis – in both cases asking a judge to rule against the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission that the machines are not electronic gaming devices.

A Marion Superior Court judge ruled against Buckwheat Holdings, saying the customers are paying for gambling games regardless of whether they receive Internet time with their purchase.

rgreen@jg.net

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