Wednesday May 23, 2012 : ONLINE SPORTSBETTING RING ARRESTS IN NEW JERSEY
13 alleged mob members face prosecution for running sports betting through a Costa Rica website
Hitting the headlines on the publication Philly.com Tuesday was the arrest of 13 alleged members of the Genovese crime family by the FBI, accused of running a multi-million sports betting enterprise through a website, Beteagle.com, in Costa Rica.
Those detained included an 80-year-old and his 72-year-old top lieutenant, accused of racketeering and conspiracy offences connected with the sports betting business.
In a press statement, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said that investigations over the past four years had produced evidence that the ring was involved in bookmaking, loan-sharking, and cargo theft, buy added that the "new wrinkle" was the use of offshore sites and the Internet for processing bets.
The FBI agent in charge, Michael Ward, said: “The use of Internet gambling and off shore locales demonstrates an evolution and increased sophistication.”
Those arrested include Joseph “Pepe” Lascala (80), the reputed head of a Genovese crew operating in the Hudson County area, and Pat “Uncle Patsy” Pirozzi (72) who was described as Lascala’s “right hand man.”
The duo were the lead targets named in a 61-page criminal complaint that outlined a four-year federal investigation. The investigations included secretly recorded conversations between members of the ring.
One of the arrested men, Joseph Graziano (75) is alleged to have remarked in one recorded conversation that he had 49 people on his payroll and could make $2 million a year from his Beteagle website in Costa Rica.
"….sometimes I put the money in the bushes, you know," he is alleged to have said. "You got money in the bag. … I don’t pay no [expletive] income tax. I mean, I wish I had done it all my life.”
It is not clear whether the conversations were recorded through wire taps or "cooperating" individuals wearing concealed recording gear, but official documents on the case refer to individuals cooperating with the FBI.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office brought a similar case against alleged members and associates of the Lucchese crime family in Morris County, N.J., two years ago and code named Operation Heat.
Defendants in that case, who still await trial, stand accused of generating $2.2 billion in illegal sports bets over a 16 month period.
Authorities allege that bettors were given usernames and passwords to gain access to the website betting operation and that while bets were electronically forwarded to what was referred to as the “office” in Costa Rica, payouts and collections in cash were made in New Jersey by “agents” for the betting ring.
Gambling debts often were converted into loans at exorbitant rates that customers had to repay under the threat of violence from the Genovese family, authorities alleged.
The complaint also detailed a stolen-cargo operation run by the family which referred to the property as SWAG, short for “stolen without guns.”