Four businesses were raided and shut down Friday after police said they were operating illegal gaming machines.

Working with the District Attorney’s Office and the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Alcohol Law Enforcement, the Burke County Sheriff’s Office issued search warrants on four gaming locations at 1460 U.S. 70 W, Valdese; 1575 U.S. 70 W, Valdese; 2210 U.S. 70 E, Morganton; and 2000 Johns River Loop, Morganton, and served those warrants Friday, according to a press release from BCSO.

The searches were conducted simultaneously by more than 50 officers from BCSO, ALE, NCDPS Probation, NCDPS Corrections; and officers from Morganton Department Public Safety, Valdese, Drexel and Glen Alpine police departments, the release said.

BCSO and ALE conducted undercover operations determining that the machines in these locations were being operated in violation of the N.C. Statutes, the release said. The gaming machines were seized and stored as evidence pending court proceedings. Charges and arrests are pending for the persons involved with these gaming locations.

The establishments pay cash prizes to customers, which is illegal in the state, according to Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant.

The searches and pending charges are the first phase of ongoing investigations throughout Burke County by the BCSO and Burke County Police Departments for all sites that are operating gaming machines illegally, the release said.

BCSO and other Burke County law enforcement agencies have received complainants from citizens alleging crimes at or near these gaming sites ranging from solicitation of prostitution, illegal sale and use of controlled substances, possession of firearms, and possible sales of stolen property, the release said. Complainants have also included break-ins and larcenies of property, trespassers on private property, and residents living near these properties being concerned about their family’s safety.

More updates regarding the pending arrests and charges pursuant to the searches Friday, as well as future arrests and charges if needed for other gaming sites, will be released as the investigations continue, the release said.

More information will be published as it becomes available.

Johnny Casey and Chrissy Murphy are staff writers. Casey can be reached at jcasey@morganton.com or 828-432-8907. Murphy can be reached at cmurphy@morganton.com or 828-432-8941.

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