Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – The man accused of running an illegal casino operation at Spinners on U.S. Route 23 pleaded guilty to the charge Wednesday in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court.
Stephen S. Cline, 69, of Walnut Creek Pike, Ashville, pleaded guilty to one count of operation of an illegal casino, a fifth-degree felony, and one count of money laundering, a third-degree felony, before Judge P. Randall Knece.
With the plea, Cline also agreed to the forfeiture of $160,000 in cash, a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 2013 GMC Sierra.
Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss similar charges against Judith A. Cline, his wife and co-owner of the business, along with employees Kimberly J. Haller and Gail L. Compston, in exchange for the plea and developed a joint sentencing recommendation for the court along with Bradley Koffel, Cline’s defense attorney.
In accepting Cline’s guilty plea on the two counts on Wednesday, Knece explained Cline’s rights and that his plea deal was with prosecutors, not with the court.
“You understand, I’m the one who gets to decide, and I haven’t agreed to anything,” Knece said, and Cline confirmed he understood.
Cline will be sentenced following a pre-sentence investigation by the court in about six weeks. He faces a maximum of 36 months in state prison and a $10,000 fine for the money laundering charge, and an additional 12 months in state prison and $2,500 fine for the illegal casino charge.
Cline was originally charged on April 3, 2015, after cash, documents and 143 gaming machines were seized from the Spinners business. He was indicted June 5 but the original indictment was dismissed, and he was reindicted Aug. 7 on state organized crime charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, three counts of money laundering, six counts of operation of an illegal casino and one count of possession of criminal tools.
He also faced the forfeiture of $295,606.98 in cash, along with seven vehicles, one motor home, one boat and the property that housed the business on U.S. Route 23.
The investigation of the Spinners operation began near the end of 2014 when investigators started receiving complaints about cash payments being made from slot machines at the business. Such payments are only permitted at Ohio’s four land-based casinos.
The investigation was conducted by the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office and the Pickaway County Prosecutor’s Office.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal