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Illegal Sports Betting Operation Busted by Feds

A slew of charges including corruption, money laundering and conspiracy were filed against 25 individuals for allegedly running an illegal Internet bookmaking operation over a handful of states that took in more than $50 million in wagers in a span of eighteen months.

Those charged in the 259-page indictment had ties to the online sites of Pinnacle Sports, Wager4You, Jazz Sports, BetCris, PlayHere and the land-based Cantor’s “M” Casino located south of the Las Vegas Strip. A press release from the Queens County, N.Y., district attorney’s office stated that the illegal online gambling operation–dubbed Operation World Wide Wagers–ran from April 13, 2011 to Oct. 18, 2012 and used off-shore wire rooms in Costa Rica and Panama to facilitate the placement of wagers by bettors and agents.

“Illegal gambling is not a victimless crime,” said Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “Those who participate in these criminal enterprises often use threats, intimidation and even physical force to collect debts and often times charge usurious interest rates on outstanding debts.”

Fifteen of those charged, including Pinnacle Sports owners George Molsbarger, Brandt England and Stanley Tomchin, were allegedly involved with unlawful bookmaking, while ten of the defendants were said to have acted as money collectors, agents or banks. Also nabbed in the bust was Mike Colbert, who is Cantor Gaming’s sports book director and manages the M Resort’s sports book in Las Vegas. Colbert was among eight individuals indicted in Las Vegas, Nevada. The remaining defendants listed addresses in either California, New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

As a result of the indictments, federal agents seized property and over $7.6 million in cash–of which $2.8 million was seized in Las Vegas. The NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau conducted the surveillance and operation, working in collaboration with the FBI and law enforcement authorities in the four other states. The illegal gambling included wagers on horse-racing, college and pro football, baseball, hockey and basketball.

Agents from the Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) also participated in the arrests and seizure of cash and property. The GCB issued a statement that said those arrested had “ties to traditional organized crime.” The GCB continues to investigate the extent of regulatory violations within the Silver State.

Several of those indicted in Las Vegas had backgrounds in the poker community, including Steven Diano, who cashed at several WSOP events. Paul Sexton, 29, of Henderson, Nevada, was at one time a Full Tilt “Red Pro.” All told, the 25 individuals charged in the undercover sting face a total of 225 violations.

Pinnacle Sports had developed a reputation as a respected Internet sportsbook. It is licensed to operate in more than 100 countries, but pulled out of the U.S. market five years ago. The company issued a statement regarding the indictment that said: “Regarding the recent allegations surrounding the individuals allegedly affiliated with Pinnacle Sports, please be reassured that no Pinnacle Sports employees have been arrested or charged, and Pinnacle Sports itself was not charged in the indictment. We expect no interruptions to our day-to-day business activities at this time, and will continue to provide our clients the excellent value and service Pinnacle Sports has been known for.”





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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.