The U.S. government’s battle against online casinos and their operators continues.
A federal grand jury has indicted two online casino businesses — Thrill X and BMX Entertainment — and three individuals with conducting an illegal gambling business and money laundering.
The indictments allege that the defendants own and manage illegal gambling businesses involving online sports betting. The affidavit alleges that online gambling sites are run by companies located outside of the U.S., while the majority of customers are in the U.S.
The two indictments were returned on April 26, 2011 and unsealed today.
As part of the investigation, 11 bank accounts located in Charlotte, North Carolina; Guam; Panama; Malta; Portugal; and the Netherlands; and domain names associated with 10 internet gambling sites were seized.
These 10 domain names were seized:
Bookmaker.com, 2Betsdi.com, Funtimebingo.com, Goldenarchcasino.com, Truepoker.com, Betmaker.com, Betgrandesports.com, Doylesroom.com, Betehorse.com and Beted.com.
Users trying to access these sites will be directed to a banner that provides notice that the domain name has been seized by order of the court. (As of the writing of this release, some of the sites were still active.)
Internet gambling operators rely upon the U.S. banking system, and more specifically, money-processing business generally called “payment processors,” to facilitate the movement of funds to and from their customers, the gamblers. Typically, an internet gambling operator directs the payment processor to collect funds from individual gamblers which are used to wager with the gambling organization. Those gambling proceeds are transferred to an offshore foreign bank. The internet gambling operator then sends a check or wire transfer from an offshore bank to the payment processor, directing the payment processor to distribute the money to gamblers for their winnings.
The affidavit filed in support of the seizure warrants alleges that Homeland Security Investigations in Baltimore, Maryland opened an undercover payment processor business, called Linwood Payment Solutions. Linwood allowed undercover agents to gain person-to-person contact with top managers of gambling organizations to discuss the Internet gambling business, to negotiate contracts and terms of the processing, and to handle the intricate movement and processing of collection and payment data from the gambling organizations to the banks.
The affidavit alleges that on November 12, 2009, a Maryland-based online gambler and cooperating informant confirmed that he/she frequented gambling sites, opened accounts and gambled in Maryland. The gambler agreed to set up online gambling accounts and was provided $500 to place bets on gambling websites. The gambler created an account on a BetEd website and placed several bets. On March 30, 2010, BetEd used Linwood to wire transfer $100 in winnings to the gambler’s bank account.
Linwood allegedly processed gambling transactions since 2009 for BetEd, K23 and other gambling organizations using banks located in Guam and Charlotte, North Carolina. According to the affidavit, between December 2009 and January 2011, Linwood processed over 300,000 transactions worth more than $33 million, including transactions for individuals in Maryland. Between February 2010 and March 2011 alone, BetEd directed Linwood to wire transfer over $2.5 million of collected gambling proceeds to bank accounts in Panama; and between February 2011 and April 2011, K23 directed Linwood to wire transfer over $91,000 of gambling proceeds to bank accounts in Portugal and Malta.
These indictments are seeking the forfeiture of the bank accounts used to process the gambling transactions, along with the domain names of websites used by the defendants.
The defendants in this case face a maximum sentence of five years for operating an illegal gambling business and a maximum of 20 years in prison for money laundering. As of the time of this story, a court appearance has not been scheduled.
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