'Violent Gambling Ring' Busted Up, Feds Say


SAN DIEGO (CN) - Eighteen members of a "violent gambling ring" in Southern California face federal charges of running an illegal, multimillion-dollar business called Macho Sports.
     Fourteen people were arrested Wednesday in Southern California and one was arrested in Norway, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
     Uncle Sam also seeks forfeiture of more than $5 million in Macho Sports property, including a La Jolla property.
     Lead defendants Jan Harald Portocarrero and Erik Portocarrero (aka the Clam Eater) ran Macho Sports from Lima, Peru, using the Internet and toll-free telephone lines to take bets from customers in California, prosecutors said in the statement.
     "The organization ensured the prompt payment of gambling debts through the use of intimidation, threats, and violence, as well as fostering a violent reputation as to its treatment of delinquent customers. The co-conspirators avoided detection by laundering their illegal proceeds and maintaining a company headquarters and the physical platform for its Internet operations outside the United States. Although originally from California, the Portocarrero brothers set up Macho Sports first in Panama and later in Peru after suffering previous gambling arrests or convictions in the United States," according to the U.S. attorney.
     Other defendants operated as bookies and collectors, or "sub-bookies," prosecutors said.
     The indictment was filed on June 7 and unsealed Wednesday.
     They are charged with RICO conspiracy, punishable by 20 years in prison, and illegal gambling business, punishable by 5 years.
     Here are the defendants: Jan Harald Portocarrero : 40 Los Angeles, CA
     Erik Portocarrero, 42, of Lima, Peru
     Amir Mokayef, 37, of La Jolla, Calif.
     Joseph Barrios, 47, of Marina Del Rey
     Randall Lee Irwin, 51, of Los Angeles
     Larry Neil Gold, 53, of North Hollywood,
     Charles Edward Sullivan, 40, of Canyon Country, Calif.
     Michael Christopher Iaco, 30, of San Diego,
     Emed G. Sidaros, 43, of Los Angeles,
     Isaac Pete Gharibeh, 42, of Los Angeles,
     Todd Michael Heflin, 45, of West Hills,
     Howard Alan Blum, 51, of Carlsbad,
     Michael John Massey, 44, of San Diego,
     Salvatore Giacomo Groppo, 37, of San Diego,
     Nilesh Kumar Ambubhai Patel, 26, of Los Angeles,
     Benjamin John William Weber, 27, of La Mesa,
     and Macho Sports International Corp., of Panama and Peru.