• Homeland Security assisting police with inspections at Jacksonville internet cafes

    By: Ryan Nelson , Action News Jax


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Agents with the Department of Homeland Security made the rounds at internet cafes in Jacksonville on Tuesday, assisting police with inspections.

    This came after Mayor Lenny Curry signed legislation Friday ordering the shutdown of all internet cafes in the city. 

    Action News Jax learned late Tuesday night that an injunction aimed at keeping the cafes open was denied | CLICK HERE TO READ THE MOTION

    Action News Jax was there as Homeland Security Investigations, an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, joined the city of Jacksonville as it launched inspections and, ultimately, shutdowns of internet cafes across the city.

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    On Friday, Curry signed the bill, which immediately outlawed simulated gambling devices, effectively making simulated gambling establishments illegal in the city of Jacksonville. The measure was enacted by City Council on Oct. 8 with a vote of 10-9. 

    A DHS spokesperson told Action News Jax that HSI joined the city's inspection teams in a support role for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Inspection crews left behind cease and desist notices on the businesses as they made their rounds. Our cameras did not observe any property or machines belonging to cafes being confiscated by authorities. 

    Local internet cafe employee Tanzi Maestre said her employer was served a five-day cease and desist order Tuesday afternoon. 

    "It's very sad," she said. "It's heartbreaking. This is all I've known for 11 years."

    In the months and weeks building up to a vote, many council members referenced instances of violence as motivation for the citywide shutdown. The decision has resulted in thousands of displaced employees. 

    For that reason, not all council members were on board with the decision to immediately outlaw the businesses. In May, the city passed legislation giving the businesses until Feb. 1, 2020 to shut down. Friday's legislation made the shutdown immediate. 

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    On Tuesday, several City Council members held an introductory meeting for displaced internet cafe employees looking for new jobs. They discussed a range of opportunities around the city and highlighted an upcoming job fair to be held especially for the displaced workers with the help of CareerSource Northeast Florida. 

    The job fair will take place at the Emmett Reed Center on Thursday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
    Councilwoman Brenda Priestly-Jackson explained the consequences facing Jacksonville because of the immediate shutdown action from the council.

    "We were particularly concerned about the 2,000 to potentially 2,700 of our neighbors that were going to be impacted from losing their jobs," she said. 

    Internet cafe employee Allison Christopher attended the meeting at City Hall. Like many others, she is concerned that new job opportunities may not pay as well as the internet cafes.

    "The whole process of starting all over versus already having a job," she said. "Some of us make $40,000 to $50,000 already a year, you know?"

    During the meeting, some council members said they were aware that some of the jobs at the job fair may not be as lucrative as what the employees had at internet cafes. They encouraged the employees to explore all available possibilities in the meantime.

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