Friday, August 16, 2013
Plano Police bust Internet gambling ring after 12-year investigation
The defendants include men from 14 Texas cities, including two from Plano and one each from McKinney, Carrollton, Coppell, Frisco, and Prosper.
PLANO An illegal multibillion-dollar sports gambling ring with strong ties to Plano has been broken up as the result of a 12-year undercover operation by the Plano Police Department.
Officials from the Plano PD, United States Attorneys Office, and Internal Revenue Service announced the bust Thursday morning. All 18 defendants have pleaded guilty, although more arrests could come at a later date, officials said.
The bookmaking ring was known locally as the Reed Organization, but was officially called the Global Internet Corporation. The company used bookies based in North Texas, who directed members toward 25 websites owned by GIC and based out of Curacao, officials said.
"This is by far the largest bookmaking case in our district's history," said Malcolm Bales, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. "... All of this took time, but this systematic approach pulled back the curtain on the enterprise that we believe handled over $5 billion in bets during its existence."
The case began in February 2001 when a Plano resident sent an anonymous letter to the police department saying they knew of a bookie operating in the city. This simple tip is what led to the takedown of the entire organization, said Plano PD Chief Greg Rushin.
Detective Curtis Coburn was assigned the case in 2001 and began placing bets with a bookie operating out of a Plano bar the following year.
"I knew I couldn't get into the larger group without starting at the bottom," Coburn said. "I placed bets with him for two years and then used his name when I met another guy. All bookies know one another so I told the new bookie I was having trouble with my old guy; and he signed me up that day with the GIC."
Coburn said in order to not raise any red flags, he initially bet $200 to $1,000 per week. However, that number increased when he signed up on the Internet gambling website.
When it became apparent the case was larger than a few local bookies, Plano PD contacted the IRS and the United States Attorneys Office in order to increase the resources devoted to the case.
The defendants include men from 14 Texas cities, including two from Plano and one each from McKinney, Carrollton, Coppell, Frisco, and Prosper. Of the 12 men who have been sentenced, only one, 57-year-old Albert Sydney Reed of Southlake, received prison time. Reed received a one-year sentence for running an illegal gambling business, while the remaining 11 got probation.
None of the GIC bettors, some of whom placed bets reaching seven figures, were prosecuted.
Bales admitted that the sentences may seem light and send a message that gambling crimes are not taken seriously, but added his office must abide by the sentencing guidelines passed by Congress.
"They are receiving what I would consider lenient sentences, but in all instances they cooperated, and we value that in the way we fashion our agreements," he said. "The sentencing guidelines for a gambling case are quite low and allow first-time offenders to receive probation."
The defendants earned more than $200 million from 2007 to 2011, Bales said. During the investigation, officials executed 32 search warrants and 47 seizure warrants, seizing $10 million in assets including cash, gold coins, real estate and sports memorabilia purchased with gambling proceeds. The assets will be split up among the participating agencies, including $4.75 million to Plano PD.
"To ensure that criminal activity doesn't continue to occur, it is vital to seize the assets of those in the organization," Rushin said. "... These funds will allow us to pay for additional police equipment, technology and building projects for which we lack funding, and all of this will help us keep Plano safe."
Even with the dismantling of GIC, Coburn said there is much work to be done.
"There are a lot of Internet bookies out there," he said. "All you have to do is Google 'Internet gambling' and you will see several pages of off-shore gambling sites."
Still, Coburn said he felt relief when he heard all defendants had pleaded guilty.
"It felt like the world had been taken off my shoulders," he said. "This was a lot of hard work, and I am sure Chief Rushin and the rest of Plano PD are happy that it finally came to an end."
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