VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Seventeen illegal internet cafés have been shut down in Volusia County as part of a crackdown by the Sheriff's Office.
- 17 internet cafes shut down in Volusia County
- Deputies say the businesses were operating illegally
- New ruling bans those businesses outright
"(I) think it's safe to say that we're at war with these establishments, and we're going to do everything we humanly can to shut them down and run them out of the county," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
The Florida legislature banned internet cafés in 2013. But in the years since, many of those types of businesses have found loopholes to continue operations, including using different types of gambling machines.
A new ruling from the First District Court of Appeals outright bans machines that are used for winning money and monetary prizes, making it easier for law enforcement to make arrests.
"It comes down to: they believe that the law had a gray area that they could circumvent," Chitwood said. "(With) this new ruling, we're confident along with the State Attorney's Office that loophole has been closed, and we are going to pursuit that."
Chitwood said recent robberies in the county prompted the Sheriff's Office to go after the businesses. There was also one in nearby Flagler County.
"We believe it's a matter of time before a patron is murdered or something to that effect is going to happen," he said. "Clearly these robberies are planned and staged."
Chitwood said some of the incidents have gone unreported but were revealed when deputies handed down cease and desist orders.
Since October 19, these businesses have been warned with cease and desist orders saying what they're doing is illegal. However, some already have plans to reopen. A letter on Cyber Monkey's door says it'll reopen once "they change their software."
"If you want to defy us, you want to reopen, please do because we will be in your store and on you like white on rice seizing your equipment seizing your assets and locking you up," Chitwood said.
Chitwood said this court ruling will likely help them make some arrests in a case from last year.
He said they plan to submit what they found to the State Attorney's Office, which then has to decide if they're going to issue both search and arrest warrants.