First Jury Conviction in AZ Involving Internet Sweepstakes Cafe

Phoenix  – Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced a jury convicted Laura Marie Leinaar and Eric Alan Stelljes in connection with a criminal gambling enterprise which operated in Arizona. The jury verdict is the first in Arizona against a so-called “Internet sweepstakes cafe” a form of illegal gambling that has previously been the subject of criminal and civil enforcement actions in other states, including Florida, Mississippi, California, Ohio, and Texas.

“This verdict sends a strong message to the operators of these shops,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “We will not tolerate unlawful gambling enterprises in our neighborhoods. We will continue to prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Escape Internet Lounge operated casino-style games which the defendants claimed were “creative reveals” of an underlying sweepstakes accessed through computer terminals inside the business, located on 4th Street in Flagstaff, AZ. Undercover investigations showed that the defendants did not offer entries to the purported sweepstakes without a purchase, and that they did not post the odds of winning prizes or the particular prizes offered.

Leinaar, 43 of Parks, AZ and Stelljes, 44 of Phoenix, AZ were found guilty of Promotion of Gambling, Conspiracy, and Illegal Conduct of an Enterprise. Stelljes was also found guilty of Money Laundering involving the proceeds of the business. 

Leinaar and Stelljes will be sentenced on January 22, 2016, before Judge Roland J. Steinle III.

Assistant Attorneys General Todd Lawson and Maura C. Quigley prosecuted this case.

For additional information, members of the media may contact Mia Garcia, Spokesperson & Director of Media Relations at 602-339-5895 or Mia.Garcia@azag.gov.