Originally created 01/30/05

Raids lead to gaming arrests

A gambling raid by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office vice division Friday resulted in the arrests of a prominent Augusta businessman and a former political candidate.

Authorities charged Spiro Papadopoulis, 39, the owner of Augusta Communications, with commercial gambling and keeping a gambling place, and Kenneth A. Cone Jr., 34, of the 2000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, with felony commercial gambling, said the vice division's Sgt. Greg Smith.

Mr. Cone, a minor player in the county's Democratic Party, ran for Augusta-Richmond County District 5's commission seat in 2001 and lost to the Rev. Bobby Hankerson.

Sgt. Smith said investigators executed a search warrant at Augusta Communications, in the 3200 block of Washington Road, at about 10:30 p.m. Friday, after months of surveillance confirmed evidence of illegal gambling activity.

During the bust, the vice division found at least 30 people watching and playing poker. Authorities seized $95,000 in cash and computer and financial records suggesting bookmaking activities, Sgt. Smith said.

"The poker was a commercial enterprise," he said.

He also said Mr. Papadopoulis and a third man, William Robert Giffin, 57, of the 200 block of East Wynngate Drive in Martinez, were partners in the high-stakes poker ring and charged gamblers to play twice a week at the business.

When reached by telephone Saturday night, Mr. Papadopoulis denied any wrongdoing and, when asked why police had raided his poker games, replied that he didn't know.

"It was just a group of guys getting together to play cards," he said. "It's not that big of an issue, you know."

Police said Mr. Papadopoulis and Mr. Giffin also ran bets from the business, Sgt. Smith said.

"People would call in and place bets on sporting events like the Super Bowl," he said.

Authorities released the other gamblers at Augusta Communications but charged Mr. Giffin and Richard Samonksy, 28, of the 600 block of Oakdale Drive in Belvedere, S.C., with one count of commercial gambling each, Sgt. Smith said.

The vice division also executed another search warrant at the home of Richard S. Krom, 53, of the 300 block of Heath Drive, Saturday morning, he said.

Authorities seized an additional $5,000 in cash, gambling equipment and more bookmaking financial records, Sgt. Smith said.

Mr. Krom, who told Richmond County sheriff's authorities that his only source of income was gambling, was charged with commercial gambling, according to a sheriff's office incident report.

Commercial gambling is a felony charge and keeping a gambling place is a misdemeanor.

More arrests will follow, Sgt. Smith said.

Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or kate.lewis@augustachronicle.com.


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