(CN) — From New York to California, four men who ran illegal gambling sites raked in $927 million, just in the last year, from wagers on professional sport games, Brooklyn prosecutors said Thursday.
Gordon Mitchnick, accused of running the operation from Crestline, Calif., boasted about being one of the first bookmakers to use the “pay-per-head” system on such password-protected websites as wagerabc.com, thewagerspot.com and hustler247.ag.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged him and his alleged co-conspirators — Joseph Schneider, Arthur Rossi and Claude Ferguson — in a 57-count racketeering indictment that could send them to prison for 25 years on the top charge. Thompson’s office has not yet released a copy of the indictment.
“Illegal gambling is not a victimless crime — it preys on peoples’ vulnerabilities and directly leads to money laundering, loansharking and a host of other crimes,” Thompson said in a statement. “The principals of this huge gambling operation — possibly the biggest one ever to be dismantled by a local prosecutor’s office — allegedly moved millions of dollars around the United States and the world and used various tactics to launder these proceeds.”
Gamblers who visited the sites could bet on a wide variety of professional and collegiate sports, including football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer.
Peak gambling coincided with the National Football League season, and prosecutors said nearly $1 billion ran through these websites, and their related toll-free numbers, during this period.
Though the four men charged today reside in California and Manhattan, Mitchnick, 58, had offshore staff in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose to run the operation’s main office, or “wireroom,” prosecutors say.
Schneider, 39, paid roughly a $30,000 per month to run a spin-off operation on Mitchnick’s websites, and managed his own “master agents,” including 66-year-old Rossi, according to the indictment.
Ferguson, the 43-year-old runner, allegedly traveled through U.S. airports with a suitcase filled with $50,000 to help the crew launder money.
Brooklyn prosecutors claim jurisdiction because they say Mitchnick’s sprawling enterprise included one enterprise that operated on their home turf.
Thompson’s office described the cash image at the top of this article as the haul from Arthur Rossi’s safe-deposit box.
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