Judge sentences zoo owner on gambling charges

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

A Rowan County man received probation Wednesday for charges he illegally possessed video poker machines.

Steve Macaluso’s Metrolina Wildlife Park near Rockwell was raided in July. Animals, drugs and guns were seized.

A second charge against Macaluso of simple drug possession was dismissed in a Rowan District courtroom.

District Court Judge Bill Kluttz sentenced Macaluso to 12 months of unsupervised probation and 24 hours of community service. His original 120 days jail was suspended to the terms of probation. He must also pay court costs.

Investigators with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office found 14 video poker machines in Macaluso’s garage and basement.

Court testimony showed that at least five machines worked and the others were in various states of disrepair.

According to Macaluso’s attorney, Steve Gray, the machines were more than 25 years old and his client was not operating a video poker establishment.

Assistant District Attorney Bonnie Busby reminded the court that, nonetheless, the machines were still illegal.

The drug Diazepam, which was also found during the raid, was obtained through a prescription Macaluso obtained from a veterinarian. Diazepam is a minor tranquilizer much like valium.

Gray pointed out that the initial search warrant wasn’t issued for the purpose of seizing the video machines.

The search warrant was served following a tip that Macaluso was illegally holding some animals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture initiated the investigation into alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Macaluso’s girlfriend, Beth Hullett, who was also charged during the raid, appeared in court with her attorney, Darrin Jordan. Her charges of trafficking in heroin and possession with intent to sell the painkillers hydrocodone and propoxyphene were not addressed Wednesday.

Her case was continued because the court is still awaiting lab tests.

The machines were to be destroyed and the weapons that were seized are to be given back to Macaluso, provided he proves he has permits and the barrels of the weapons are deemed to be of legal length.

Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.