Forty-five electronic gambling machines were seized last week in White County along with “approximately $40,000 in illicit funds which were being used to illegally maintain a gambling establishment,” according to Detective Lt. Chancey Warden of the White County Sheriff’s Office.

The investigation is still active and Warden said criminal charges “are forthcoming.”

Sheriff Phillip Miller said Friday that his office is “still interviewing and determining just exactly how the owners were involved and how the store clerks were involved because there is going to be store clerks who were paying out, doing the payouts, too, and they knew it was illegal.”

The seizures regarding illegal gambling and money laundering took place Sept. 3 at three locations within the county “after a lengthy investigation,” Warden wrote. The sheriff’s office in collaboration with the Searcy Police Department executed search warrants at the Exxon gas station at 3097 Arkansas Highway 5 in El Paso, owned by Sohai Karani; the Citgo, also known as Searcy Mart at 401 N. Maple St, owned by Wasim Shalzad; and the Exxon Station and Bait Shop at 2936 S. Main St, owned by Zeenat Azad.

In his statement, Warden said the search warrants were the result of a multi-jurisdictional investigation that started after the sheriff’s office received complaints from several people. The Stone County Sheriff’s Office in Mountain View and the Marshall Police Department reportedly executed warrants in their jurisdictions.

“We appreciate the tips, complaints and information from our local citizens that led to this investigation being successful,” Miller said, adding that this is the first time he has dealt with this kind of activity since he became sheriff in 2019.

Warden wrote that “criminal activities such as these are often associated with human trafficking, drug trafficking and has the potential of funding domestic and international terrorism.”

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