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Police officers unload gambling machines from the back of a truck at Mobile Police Head-quarters Wednesday.
AP photo by Bill Starling
Police officers unload gambling machines from the back of a truck at Mobile Police Head-quarters Wednesday.

Mobile police arrest father, son in gambling bust

By Garry Mitchell
Associated Press Writer

MOBILE — "Your Skill Wins Prizes," says the label on one of the electronic gambling machines smashed into pieces Wednesday outside Mobile police headquarters.

Jerry Cordell, 59, of Ozark, and his son, Paul Cordell, 35, of Mobile, were arrested on gambling charges in a police undercover probe that netted 64 machines, including the one destroyed. The Cordell operation reaches into Georgia and Florida and could lead to federal prosecution, police said.

The Cordells, released on bond following their arrest Tuesday, could not be reached Wednesday for comment by phone.

Promoted as games of skill, these machines for playing video poker or slots — games of chance ruled illegal in a 2004 Alabama Supreme Court order — had collected thousands of dollars from customers at convenience stores, groceries and gas stations in the port city area. Prizes included cash, gasoline or merchandise.

Investigators said a machine, which costs about $3,000 new, could bring in up to $400,000 a year for the owner. Police suspect the machines came from Las Vegas.

"They weren't built in Alabama," said Mobile Police Chief Phillip M. Garrett, watching some of the machines unloaded from a truck and crushed by a city trash crew.

He said the results of the investigation will be shared with the FBI.

The Cordells are charged with possession of a gambling device and promoting gambling. The elder Cordell was charged with possession of gambling records. His son also was charged with possession of marijuana and a controlled substance, Lortab.

The charges are misdemeanors that could bring fines and a year in jail.

Prosecutors say the real penalty for those arrested is having the machines confiscated and destroyed.

Four others also were charged, but their names were not immediately released during the ongoing 10-month investigation. Police said while the investigation extended into Florida and Georgia, Wednesday's charges only relate to the Mobile machines.

During the arrests, police seized $15,175 in cash and froze another $18,000 in a Cordell bank account. Two trucks and 10 boxes of illegal gambling tickets disguised as phone cards also were seized.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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