Friday, December 14, 2001

Four face gambling counts

Police look into instant-win store

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — A four-month investigation into a Hamilton instant win ticket store has left four people facing a string of gambling charges.

        Authorities say the four, who have been released pending arraignments in Hamilton Municipal Court, are connected with the Life Rekindled Instant Ticket Booth on South Erie Avenue.

        Rondall Messer, 58, Hamilton, is charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony, and misdemeanor charges of gambling and operating a gambling house. Ruth Messer, 63, of Hamilton, is facing a felony charge of gambling, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and three felony counts of operating a gambling house.

        Cheryl Ison, 37, Hamilton, and Thomas Reynolds, 67, Fairfield, who police said were employees at the ticket store, were charged with gambling and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

        Mr. Reynolds and the Messers are scheduled to be arraigned today while Ms. Ison is set to be arraigned on Tuesday.

        “Concerned citizen complaints initiated the initial investigation which resulted in a four-month investigation,” Hamilton Police Officer David Crawford said. Authorities didn't release details on the type of complaints received.

        Temporary restraining orders freezing bank accounts connected with Life Rekindled and the Messers' personal bank accounts were issued on Wednesday. The Messers are board members of the Life Rekindled organization, police said.

        Reached Thursday, Mr. Messer would not comment. Mr. Reynolds could not be reached, and there is no listing for Ms. Ison. Life Rekindled is not listed in the Butler County phone book.

        Hamilton Police headed up the investigation, assisted by the Butler County Prosecutor's Office.

        “There's a suspicion the money is not being handled correctly,” said Joe Statzer, spokesman for the Butler County prosecutor's office.

        Ohio law requires that all proceeds generated from such instant ticket stores be returned to a qualified charitable organization, authorities said.

        The stores cannot use any of the proceeds for any expenses other than paying out winnings.

        “None of the profit is allowed to be kept by the operators,” Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson said.

        “That's the key thing.”


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