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Auction house owner faces charge over slots

The man is accused of possessing gambling devices after machines are confiscated; he says they are legal.

By STEVE THOMPSON
Published October 5, 2003

NEW PORT RICHEY - John Roshio said he bought his first five slot machines in June at a flea market. The dealer, a wholesaler based in Daytona Beach, he said, was correct when he told him they sold well.

Roshio, who owns 3 J's Auction at 5635 State Road 54, sold them within two days.

"I mean all five machines just screamed out the door," said Roshio, 35. He began buying them in shipments of 10 and 12 and displaying them in front of his auction house. They sold quickly.

"I've been rolling the big cart out front every day since June," Roshio said. "They've been sitting out at the road with a sign that says slots for sale."

But in September, Pasco Sheriff's Office detectives confiscated the 25 machines he had in stock, accusing Roshio of possessing gambling devices. Roshio figures they took about $9,000 worth of inventory.

"I think this whole thing is just ludicrous," Roshio told the Times on Thursday. The Daytona Beach wholesaler he has been buying the machines from, Tom Scianablo, assured him from the start that they are legal.

"I mean he's selling them all over the state and all over the country," Roshio said. "There was no reason for me to believe that it was illegal. Even now reading the statutes, I still don't believe it's illegal."

His machines are for home entertainment, not gambling, Roshio said.

The machines are set up to take only tokens, not quarters. And Roshio said he warns his customers that if they alter the machines to take quarters, they'll be breaking the law.

Also, the machines are games of skill, not chance, Roshio said. "The slot machines are set up to be self stopped. You have to hit the button to stop the wheels."

Detective William T. Davis, who confiscated the machines, disagrees on both points. It makes no difference whether a slot machine accepts tokens or quarters, he said.

"If it accepts a token, slug, or coin, it is illegal in the state of Florida," he said.

And Roshio's machines are games of chance, Davis said. "It has already been programmed when it's going to stop, where it's going to hit on, and what it's going to pay out."

Davis said he has had a court certified expert verify that Roshio's machines are illegal.

He has finished putting his case together and will be forwarding the charges to the state attorney, he said.

In the meantime, on Sept. 25, Davis arrested Roshio on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. While inside his auction house, detectives noticed a handgun on display. Roshio was convicted of felony conspiracy to traffic cocaine in 1995. Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show that he has also faced charges including burglary and larceny, both in 1990.

Scianablo, who owns East Coast Slots, imports the used machines from Japan and refurbishes them. He has bought and sold thousands of them during the past several years without problems from authorities, he told the Times.

The detectives who took Roshio's machines should find something better to do, Scianablo said.

"I think they're interpreting the law improperly, and a good lawyer should be able to straighten that out."

[Last modified October 5, 2003, 01:49:47]


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