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Seizure nets $211,000

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  • Seizure nets $211,000

    Video-poker Sweep Casts Wide Net

    The News and Observer Andrea Weigl and Wade Rawlins, Staff Writers 06/21/2002

    RALEIGH - FBI agents seized more than $211,000 in cash and 196 video-poker machines in their sweep this week of convenience stores, gas stations, sports bars and the offices of a Selma gaming distributor, according to documents made public Thursday.

    The documents give a glimpse inside the federal investigation into electronic gambling in North Carolina. The inquiry has until recently focused on businesses Down East, but it reached into the Triangle on Monday when agents raided 19 locations in Wake and Johnston counties.

    By far the biggest take came from the office of Godwin Music Co., owned by Selma businessman David Ricky Godwin, where agents seized $85,000 in cash and 72 machines. An additional $2,100 in cash and one machine were taken from the Garner office of Raleigh Amusements, another of Godwin's businesses.

    Among the other items seized from Godwin's offices were check registers showing campaign contributions to Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat, and a $1,000 payment to House Minority Leader Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican.

    Investigators wouldn't say why they were interested in the documents connecting Godwin to the politicians.

    Frank Perry, resident agent in charge of the FBI's Raleigh office, would say only that agents were continuing to catalog all of the evidence Thursday. Perry also said agents seized 76 machines Wednesday beyond the 120 listed in the court documents released Thursday.

    Neither Godwin nor his attorney, Jack O'Hale of Smithfield, could be reached late Thursday.

    Over the past five years, Godwin has contributed $11,500 to Daughtry's and Easley's campaigns.

    "Ricky is the kind of guy who likes politics," said Daughtry, who is a lawyer in Smithfield and sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2000. "He gives to every campaign. He has done fund-raisers for me, introduced me to friends. They contributed to me, too."

    Daughtry said the $1,000 payment could have been for legal work or a campaign contribution.

    Earlier this week, Daughtry said his firm had only handled real-estate matters for Godwin. On Thursday, Daughtry said his firm has represented Godwin in both civil and criminal matters. Daughtry said he represented Godwin Music Co. in several cases in Wake and Harnett counties in the 1990s when agents seized video poker machines from the company.

    Despite the Easley campaign's acceptance of $2,500 from Godwin, the governor's spokesman, Fred Hartman, said, "We don't have anything to do with the joker poker companies."

    Beyond Godwin's businesses, federal agents seized machines and money from 17 businesses, including Massengill's Gas and Grocery in Smithfield and the Holiday Travel Mart in Four Oaks. The Holiday Travel Mart is owned by Wade Stewart, a member of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, who leases it to his son.

    The affidavits attached to the search warrants remained under seal Thursday, so the evidence that prompted agents to target these businesses is still unknown.

    The warrants gave federal agents the authority to take everything from video-poker machines and cash to computers and accounting records. Among the items loaded onto rental trucks were boxes filled with bank account and tax records, weapons, two souvenir baseballs valued at $4,240, and $2,340 from an automatic teller machine.

    During Monday's raids, Daughtry said, he was contacted by a client, Danny Joe Massengill, owner of Massengill's Gas and Oil, and went to the business to look at the FBI's search warrant.

    The FBI seized three video-poker machines owned by Godwin from the service station and cash totalling almost $6,400. Daughtry said the cash was from the sale of gasoline over the weekend and his client was upset because the seizure left him without money to purchase more gasoline.

    "They had taken all his money," Daughtry said. "He couldn't buy any more gas. I've talked about getting his money back."