With football season in the United States now underway, thousands of sports enthusiasts are participating in office pools, fantasy leagues and all kinds of gambling, both the legal kind as well as those outside the law.
Most of it is just harmless fun. The illegal betting, though, can get nasty at times and even take a violent turn if promises are not kept and debts go unpaid.
That was the case with an international sports gambling operation that hauled in millions of dollars in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas before running afoul of the law.
After the 1995 Super Bowl
Two brothers from California started this illegal gambling ring after the 1995 Super Bowl. After getting some unwanted attention from law enforcement in Los Angeles, they moved their operation to South America. They took high-stakes sports bets over the Internet and via toll-free telephone lines.
What if a losing bettor didn’t cough up the money he owed? That’s when things got a little dicey. The organization insisted on prompt payment and if they didn’t get it, intimidation and a growing reputation for violence came into play.
They got away with it for a while by carefully laundering the money that came in and by not having a physical business presence in the United States.
From Peru, employees of the gambling syndicate ran the Internet and telephone operations and saw to the day-to-day tasks of settling disputes and adjusting customers’ lines of credit.
Collected from losing bettors
Bookies working with the organization in Southern California recruited bettors, paid off winning bets and collected on losing bets.
There were also networks of lower-level “sub-bookies” and “runners,” that dealt directly with customers and handled thousands of dollars if not millions in cash for payments and collections.
This went on in seamless fashion for 20 years.
When the roof caved in and authorities made their move, millions of dollars in organization cash was seized from the homes, wall safes and safe deposit boxes of California bookies and their underlings.
The brothers who founded the operation have been sentenced to prison and fined a substantial amount of money. One of the brothers had to be extradited to the United States from Norway.
Many other members of the organization have pleaded guilty and were already sentenced or are awaiting sentencing.
As big as this bust was, it barely registers as a blip on the radar screen of the sports betting world.