Eight men, including professional poker player, Jay “Ghost” Sharon, have been accused of running an illegal sports gambling operation, according to the announcement made by Queens District Attorney, Richard A. Brown and NYPD Commissioner, Bill Bratton, on Tuesday.
Officials have claimed that, Sharon was acting as bookmaker and overseeing the whole operation with the help of the other defendants – Jonathan Cianciotto, Joshua Handler, Emilio Testa, Christopher Hansen, Frank Nista, Vincent Zaccario and Gary Schreiber.
According to Brown, the NYPD's Organized Crime Investigation Division started the investigation into Sharon and his team started in December 2014. The defendants, who allegedly conspired to make money through illegal gambling were accepting bets in states, where gambling on sports events is explicitly disallowed through wire rooms. Their business was ‘headquartered’ mainly in Queens County with some activity going on elsewhere; they have been operating in New York and Las Vegas, using gambling websites and toll-free numbers; the team has allegedly been collecting more than $3.5 million in bets every year.
In the 85 count indictment, each of the eight defendants have been charged with multiple enterprise corruptions, a violation of New York State’s Organized Crime Control Act. Other charges include promoting gambling, conspiracy and money laundering. The men are in custody in New York and Las Vegas and are awaiting prosecution in Queens County Supreme Court. If convicted, they could face up to 25 years in prison each.
The internet helped the illegal operation
Queens District Attorney, Brown, said in a statement, “Individuals involved in such traditional criminal enterprises as bookmaking and gambling have attempted to use the anonymity of the Internet to hide their illegal activities, over the last few years—working with our law enforcement colleagues—we have taken down a number of these operations and put them out of business. These cases, I believe, have put a significant dent in illegal gambling nationwide—and have saved individuals across the country millions of dollars in gambling losses.”
Jay Sharon, a professional Poker player, now aged 47 years, has won more than $210,000 from tournaments over the course of his career. The NYPD recovered $93,000 in cash from the men and Sharon was said to be the mastermind behind the whole operation.
The $3.5 million gambling business the NYPS buster is said to be a drop in the bucket for the illegal gambling market in the United States, which is estimated to be around $148.8 billion. This figure has been determined by the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s leading lobbying group on Capitol Hill.