CLEVELAND - The owners of a New Jersey company that provided Ohio Internet cafes with the software needed to operate pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor counts of possession of criminal tools as part of a deal that will require them to serve a 180 day suspended sentence, pay $1,000 in fines and forfeit $615,000.
Phillip Cornick and Richard Upchurch, owners of New Jersey based VS2 Worldwide Communications appeared in court for the sentencing. Their company was also fined $10,000.
Afterwards, their attorneys said the plea deal made sense, though they insist their clients did nothing illegal under Ohio law at the time.
Attorney Mark Schamel said the men sold software for a legal business and had nothing to do with how the individual cafes were being operated.
"One of these guys was running book out of his business. How would they know that? I mean that's like going to Apple and saying do you know that you're selling a software and that they're using Apple iPads to do illegal activity," he said as an example.
Michael Koty of P&E Technologies was also involved in Thursday's plea, was fined $3,000 and received the same suspended sentence.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty called the plea and the end to Internet cafes a good day for Cuyahoga County.
"Just as St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, this conviction will drive these vipers who are behind these illegal slot parlors out of Ohio," said McGinty.
"This is a great day for the elderly and the vulnerable people that these con artists have been ripping off."
Earlier this year, there were closed to 800 of these cafes in operation in Ohio offering more places to wager than all of the state's casinos and racinos combined.
Prosecutors argued the casino industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the state with every aspect of the casino's operations constantly under the microscope but there was no oversight when it came to the Internet cafes.
A change in state law recently made the Internet cafes as they existed illegal. The plea agreement prosecutors say sends a message to others who will look to fill the void the closing of the cafes will create.
"There's going to be something else that comes up, there always is, well when it does if someone's dumb enough to do it, law enforcement will be there and will aggressively attack forms of illegal gambling," said Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Dan Kasaris.