An illegal video slot machine operation has been blamed for a fatal shooting of a store clerk in a lawsuit filed by Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky on behalf of the family of Ashokkumar Patel. Patel, 50, was murdered at a Sunoco-affiliated retailer in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit alleges that the lack of security measures for the illegal slot machines is responsible for the robbery-murder because the store owners put profit before the safety of its employees.
Larry Bendesky, of SMB, said:
“As noted in the complaint, these illegal gambling devices have a long and nefarious history in our Commonwealth’s criminal justice history as magnets for violent criminals looking for an easy score, knowing that the small stores that typically provide them are stocked with thousands of dollars to make instant cash payouts, and lack any of the necessary security measures to protect the low wage, front-line workers and customers. As a result, the combative, controversial industry that refers to these devices as “skill games”, and their partners at gas stations and other small businesses unequipped to handle these operations, needs to be held accountable for what in this case was clearly a killing machine.” Mr. Bendesky noted that the store’s “security cameras” were no defense against the attack, but merely recorded evidence used in the criminal proceedings.”
Patel, SMB said, lost his life because without proper safety procedures such as those found in regulated casinos, violent criminals see the premises as a soft target.
Ashokkumar Patel had only worked at the store for a week before a gunman entered the premises and shot him while he was mopping the floor. The shooter was known to the police as a drug dealer who regularly gambled on the illegal machines.
Robert W. Zimmerman of SMB said:
“Mr. Patel, who was mopping the floor at the time of his murder, was gunned down by his assailant who fled the store with thousands of dollars stored to pay gambling winnings from the illegal machines. His widow and their three children want to make sure that besides the killer, those responsible for knowingly putting this beloved husband and father in danger, and for ignoring basic safety and security protocols, are held accountable. Workers like Mr. Patel were considered ‘essential’ during this time in the pandemic. But the only thing that was essential to the defendants was to place as many illicit profit centers – these illegal gaming devices – throughout the state as they could, without any regard to their inherent dangers.” SMB’s John L. Lang is co-counsel along with Mr. Bendesky and Mr. Zimmerman.” Finally, it was noted that Craig’s Mart in the same area had been robbed at gunpoint in 2020, highlighting that the owners of gambling machines should have been aware of increased risk.
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