22 July 2009

W.Va. Lottery Resumes Scrutiny of Indicted Operator (UPDATED)

West Virginia's Lottery Commission should be receiving legal advice from the attorney general's office this morning, on whether it can suspend an indicted operator's license without violating a federal judge's asset preservation order, The Associated Press reports.

Federal prosecutors sought that order, as they plan to seize at least $5.3 million from Joe C. Ferrell and his Southern Amusement Co. if they're convicted in the 48-count racketeering and corruption case.

(Update: That legal advice, not revealed at Wednesday's meeting, prompted the commission to leave the license alone pending the outcome of the case. As AP reports, Lottery officials cited how the criminal trial is scheduled for next month -- but they were not aware until asked about it by AP that both sides in the cases want the trial pushed back to February.)

The commission weighed yanking the license last month, but balked over concerns of running afoul of U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr.

As AP observed then, "Southern Amusement is one of the state's largest suppliers of 'limited' video lottery machines to licensed bars and clubs. With permits for 675 devices, the most allowed any one operator, the Logan County company currently leases 640 poker- and slot-style machines to 128 retail locations...(that) rake in $2.3 million a month."

Ferrell, D-Logan, served seven terms in the House of Delegates, taking a break from the Legislature in the 1990s after he pleaded guilty to illegal campaign spending.

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