Online Bookie Bust Finds Ties to Washington Baseball Scout

Nov 15, 2006 12:39pm

An Internet gambling corporation was shut down and 27 individuals, including a major league baseball scout, were indicted in New York City today in a $3.3 billion online gaming bust. The operation "Playwithal Sportsbook" employed 2,000 bookies across the nation, according to New York police officials, who said it was the largest sports betting operation ever shut down by the NYPD. The ring serviced more than 40,000 bettors and took bets on horses, football, baseball, NASCAR racing and even PGA golf and professional tennis. The bets were placed through the site, www.playwithal.com. The operation also had offshore elements in St. Maarten and Costa Rica and maintained shell corporations and bank accounts in Switzerland and Hong Kong. "We found that the head of this organization, James Giordano, had assembled over 2,000 bookies," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Officials said Washington Nationals baseball scout Frank Falzarano worked for the organization and was among those indicted by the Queens County, N.Y. district attorney. Under the scheme, officials say, the bookies brought several thousand dollars a week in betting proceeds to the top members of the ring who each cleared more than a half million dollars a week. The bets were collected in cash after which the bookies sent their betting sheets to the ring leaders through the secure website. To infiltrate the ring, the NYPD actually cloned the secure website, allowing detectives to track each key stroke and follow each move the ring made. "It was the first time we’d done anything like that," Inspector Brian O’Neill of the Organized Crime Bureau said. Later, when their betting site had been hacked by Russian organized crime, the ring added security, and police were forced to break into Giordano’s hotel room while he was traveling to re-clone the drive. Giordano, a nationally ranked poker player, lived in a walled compound in Florida. The walls were scaled Tuesday by the FBI. "This is the largest illegal gambling operation we have ever encountered," Police Commissioner Kelly said. District Attorney Richard Brown charged the top 27 members of the ring and the three web companies with Enterprise Corruption. "The 27 individual dependents and the three corporations [that built the secure website] are charged also with money laundering," Brown said. The 28-month investigation showed that the ring leaders kept about 60 percent of the $3.3 billion in revenue over the duration of the investigation. "Internet gambling has been compared to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 80s," Brown said. "You click your mouse; you lose your house." There was no immediate comment from Major League Baseball or the Washington Nationals team.

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