Nationwide Sports Betting Ring Sting Has Local Link
Funneled Gaming Bucks Offshore
Twenty-five individuals—including three owners of a sports betting Internet website—in five states have been indicted on charges of operating an illegal sports betting enterprise in Queens County and elsewhere that profited by more than $50 million during an 18-month period by accepting wagers on various sporting events such as horse-racing and professional and college football, basketball, hockey and baseball.
In addition, dozens of search warrants and asset seizure warrants were executed last week in multiple jurisdictions in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and California, resulting, to date, in the seizure of real property and more than $7.6 million in cash and gambling chips.
The arrests and/or warrants were carried out by the NYPD Organized Crime Investigation Division, the FBI’s Asset Forfeiture Section, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, the Monmouth County (NJ) Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey State Attorney General’s Office, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Los Angeles Police Department. Furthermore, the Office of Loretta E. Lynch, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, has filed asset forfeiture warrants against the defendants’ assets.
Eight defendants were arrested last Wednesday, Oct. 24, and arraigned in Queens County Supreme Court in Kew Gardens. Seventeen additional defendants were arrested last Wednesday in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and California. The defendants are all charged with enterprise corruption—a violation of the state’s Organized Crime Control Act—as well as being variously charged with promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy. They each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Fifteen of the perpetrators who were repurted bookmakers in the scheme were identified as follows:
• Kelly Barsel, 42, of Tournament Canyon Drive in Las Vegas;
• Vincent Basciano Jr., 31, of Wilcox Avenue int he Bronx;
• Andrew Belardino, 50, of Ridgeview Way in Allentown, N.J.;
• Jerald Brancha, 57, of West Harmon Avenue in Las Vegas;
• Steven Diano, 48, of Tara Avenue in Las Vegas;
• Michael Duong, of 72nd Avenue in Flushing and Smock Court of Manalapan, N.J.;
• Brandt England, 46, of High Sail Court in Las Vegas;
• Edward Iazetti, 55, of Rhinelander Avenue in the Bronx;
• Gadroon Kyrollos, 34, of Autumn Lane in Freehold, N.J.;
• Thomas Lacerra, 73, of Sheldon Avenue in Staten Island;
• George Molsbarger, 66, of Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, Calif.;
• Daniel Monreal, 61, of Stonewood Court in San Pedro, Calif.;
• Joseph Paulk, 35, of Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas;
• John Tognino, 70, of Ampere Avenue in the Bronx; and
• Stanley Tomchin, 67, of Lilac Drive in Montecito, Calif.
Five individuals who reportedly acted as money collectors, distributors and banks were identified by law enforcement agents as follows:
• Daniel Belardino, 57, of Rosalie Street in Fair Lawn, N.J.;
• Daniel Bornico, 67, of Naples Avenue in Franklin Square, L.I.;
• Christian Rodriguez, 33, of Arlington Drive in Old Bridge, N.J.;
• Paul Sexton, 29, of Robust Court in Henderson, Nev.; and
• Flora Wu, 37, of Union Street in Brooklyn.
Finally, five defendants who were reportedly money collectors and agents in the ring were identified as follows:
• Edward Cappucci, 69, of Todt Hill Road in Staten Island;
• Thomas Chiantese, 64, of Verree Road in Philadelphia, Pa.;
• Michael Colbert, 32, of Peak Lookout Street in Las Vegas;
• Joseph Kornreich, 60, of 80th Street in East Elmhurst; and
• Ian Madenll, 43, of Cape Cod Landing in Las Vegas.
“The defendants are accused of operating an incredibly lucrative illegal gambling operation—taking in more than $50 million in a year and a half. Such unlawfully earned profits are often—and easily—diverted to more insidious criminal enterprises,” Brown said. “Illegal gambling is not a victimless crime. Those who participate in these criminal enterprises often use threats, intimidation and even physical force to collect debts and oftentimes charge usurious interest rates on outstanding debts. In addition to our NYPD and FBI partners, I want to thank our other law enforcement and governmental colleagues and authorities in other states for their cooperation and efforts in this investigation. So massive was the enterprise that only with their assistance could we bring these defendants to justice.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly added, “The defendants in this case gambled and lost that their illegal activities would fly under the radar. I want to commend the NYPD detectives, federal agents and our out-of-state partners, who together with the Queens District Attorney’s prosecutors, brought these individuals to justice.”
Acting FBI Assistant Director in Charge Mary Galligan said, “This action is an important step in policing illegal sports wagering, from hockey to horse racing. This is yet another example of the collaboration between the FBI and our partners that is increasingly necessary to combat evermore sophisticated crimes and the criminals who commit them.”
Brown said that the investigation leading to the indictment began in February 2011 when NYPD Organized Crime Investigation Division detectives developed information about an illegal sports betting operation and began a joint investigation with the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau. The investigation included physical surveillance, intelligence information and courtauthorized electronic eavesdropping.
According to the indictment, between Apr. 13, 2011 and Oct. 18 of this year, the defendants conspired to acquire money illegally through the operation of an unlawful gambling enterprise involving the use of Internet web sites that accepted bets on sporting events.
The indictment also alleges that the ring used non-traditional “wire rooms” in the form of off-shore, Internet based gambling services— such as www.pinnaclesports.com, www.jazzsports.net/com, www.wager4you.com and www.playhera. ag—used by bettors and agents to actually place their wagers.
It is alleged that the members of the enterprise used the off-shore wire rooms to maintain the gambling accounts of numerous agents through the Internet website in an effort to evade law enforcement detection through traditional methods.
Law enforcement crackdowns on traditional mob-run wire rooms have led to the use by illegal gambling rings of off-shore gambling web sites where action is available around the clock. ‘ Bettors can click on an off-shore gambling website over the Internet and be assigned individual login codes and passwords. Their wagers and win-loss amounts are recorded in “sub-accounts” maintained in the accounts of “agents.”
These gambling web sites typically store their information on computer servers outside the United States—such as in Costa Rica and Panama—and “bounce” their data through a series of server nodes in an effort to evade law enforcement.
The bookmakers were allegedly responsible for overseeing “agents,” whose jobs allegedly were to build a clientele of bettors who would regularly bet with the enterprise. It is alleged that the agents were the intermediaries between the bettor and the enterprise itself, and were responsible for “squaring up” or “settling up” with the bettors —usually on a designated day each week—by collecting and paying out money owed.
According to the indictment, the enterprise also employed “money collectors,” “money distributors” and “banks” to handle the illegal flow of money between the participants of the enterprise. These individuals were allegedly responsible for the collection and distribution of illegal gambling proceeds between the bookmakers and the agents. They also allegedly transported money throughout the United States and to and from Panama and/or Costa Rica via courier.
It is additionally alleged that the money collectors and distributors that acted as banks were responsible for holding large amounts of money for the operation. Bookmaking enterprises use money collectors, distributors and banks to avoid wire transfers and credit card transactions which are prohibited by federal law for the payment and collection of gambling debts.
The investigation was conducted by Det. Gerard McNally of the NYPD Organized Crime Investigation Division, under the supervision of Sgt. James Bratta, Lt. Christopher Farano and Inspector Brian H. O’Neill, and the overall supervision of Chief Anthony Izzo of the Organized Crime Control Bureau. Also assisting in the investigation were former Assistant District Attorneys Christine Corbett and Christine Maloney.
Assistant United States Attorney Ameet B. Kabrawala and Forfeiture Support Associates Law Clerk Anthony Lauro of the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, are handling the asset forfeiture lawsuits against the defendants under the supervision of Laura D. Mantell, chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, and under the overall supervision of Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Assistant District Attorney Gerard A. Brave, bureau chief of the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau, is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Linda M. Cantoni.
It was noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.