Investigation Nets Gambling Bust

By: Cody Stark
By: Cody Stark

An undercover investigation by Walker County law enforcement resulted in the arrests of two suspects for allegedly running an illegal gambling operation in New Waverly.

Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae advised that around 9 a.m. Wednesday, officers with the sheriff’s department and constables Gene Bartee and Steve Hill executed a search warrant after months of investigation at New Waverly Food and Gas. A total of 11 8-liner machine’s motherboards were seized along with $7,465 in cash.
Nishantha Kakunawela Weeratungei, 43, of The Woodlands and 47-year-old Johann Delano Fernando of New Waverly were both arrested and charged with keeping a gambling place, possession of gambling devices and promoting illegal gambling, all class A misdemeanors.
Detective Stephen Cole with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office said that anonymous tips from concerned citizens about illegal gambling being conducted at New Waverly Food and Gas launched an investigation into the matter.

“We sent some undercover officers into the establishment and they received cash payouts for their winnings on the machines,” Cole said. “These machines are supposed to be for amusement only, but through our investigation, we found out they paid cash, which makes it illegal gambling.”

Cole said that there were four or five gambling devices in the middle of the store and the rest were located in a spare hallway. The raid took place without any incidents and the machines were not damaged.
“Our main focus was the people paying out the cash. We did not arrest anyone who was in there playing,” Cole said.

The investigation is still ongoing and law enforcement are looking into other possible suspects who might have been involved in the operation. Class A misdemeanors carry a punishment of up to a $4,000 fine and one year in jail.

Weeratungei was released from jail Wednesday after posting three combined bonds for $3,000. Fernando, who is still being held on combined bonds of $90,000, is also wanted by authorities in the Asian country of Sri Lanka on outstanding warrants for fraud, counterfeiting and forgery.

This was the second illegal gambling bust in New Waverly over the past four months. On Feb. 6, sheriff’s deputies and Bartee raided a private residence on Family Lane and seized 34 motherboards along with $4,285. Two New Waverly residents were arrested for the alleged roles in the incident.

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