Eight Oklahomans are among 57 individuals and business entities accused in an Oklahoma City federal indictment of using the Internet to operate an international illegal sports bookmaking business that solicited more than $1 billion in bets.
Law enforcement authorities were busy making arrests Wednesday morning, said Bob Troester, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Oklahoma City.
“The defendants cannot hide the allegedly illegal sports gambling operation behind corporate veils or state and international boundaries,” Oklahoma City U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats said.
The government plans to seek forfeiture of at least $1 billion in assets traceable to gambling proceeds.
The Internet sports betting business operated initially out of San Jose, Costa Rica, but moved to Panama City, Panama, in 2003, where it has since operated under the name Legendz Sports, prosecutors said.
At least 22 domain names were used, according to the 95-page indictment.
Although the organization's Internet websites and telephone gambling services operated from facilities physically located in Panama City, Legendz Sports took wagers almost exclusively from gamblers in the United States, the indictment alleges.
Bartice Alan King, 42, of Spring, Texas, is identified in the indictment as the founder and primary operator of the Internet bookmaking operation. King was known by some associates as “Luke” or “Cool,” officials said.
The eight indicted Oklahomans were among the gambling organization's agents, bookies and runners, the indictment alleges.
The indictment was returned out of Oklahoma City because that is where the investigation began, some of the alleged participants were located here and some of the alleged illegal activities took place here, Troester indicated.
Bets could be placed several ways, the indictment states.
One method required bettors to set up and fund accounts with Legendz Sports before they could place bets. The size of bets would be limited by the amounts in the accounts.
Credit betting also was offered to some sports gamblers.
“This method of betting incorporated the use of face-to-face meetings with agents and bookies to establish an account, set a betting limit and settle any payouts resulting from betting activity,” the indictment states.
Some alleged participants in the Internet sports betting enterprise apparently made a lot of money.
One of the indicted individuals, Christopher Tanner, 56, of Sarasota, Fla., purchased a $1.65 million condominium there in the name of his wife and father-in-law, “using approximately $400,000 in gold coins as partial payment,” the indictment states.
Serena King, wife of Legendz Sports founder Bartice King, identified herself as vice president of DSS on a 2009 application to purchase a Maserati Quattroporte Italian luxury car and 2010 application to lease a 2010 Cadillac Escalade. In both cases she listed her salary as $975,000. Serena King and DSS were among those indicted.
The indictment named 34 individuals and 23 business entities.
“Individuals cannot skirt the laws of the United States by setting up illegal Internet gambling operations in a foreign country, while living in the United States and enjoying all the benefits of U.S. citizens,” said Jim Finch, special agent in charge of the FBI's Oklahoma City field office.
Internal Revenue Service agents also played roles in the investigation.
“Today's charges demonstrate that we are as determined as ever to hold accountable those involved in facilitating illegal online gambling by U.S. citizens, regardless of where the business operates or where the defendants reside,” added Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general.
Prosecutors identified the eight indicted Oklahomans as James Franklin Acker III, also known as “Frank” or “Frank The Bank,” 54, of Moore; Bruce Landen Middlebrook, also known as “Jose” or “Jose C,” 44, of Edmond; Robert C. Vanetten Jr., also known as “Bob,” “Fbobv” or “Bingo Bob,” 51, of Moore; David Lynn Ross, also known as “OB” or “Obie,” 51, of Choctaw; James Lester Acker, also known as “Les,” 30, of Moore; Kelly James Dorn, 51, of Oklahoma City; Todd William Hoss, 47, of Norman; and Robert Anthony Lay, also known as “Tony,” 48, of Moore.
If convicted, the indicted individuals face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering, up to 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit money laundering, up to 10 years in prison for money laundering and up to five years in prison for operating an illegal gambling business, officials said.
Prosecutors said they are also seeking forfeiture of at least $1 billion in real estate, bank accounts, brokerage and investment accounts, certificates of deposit, a Sabreliner aircraft, a gas lease, an individual retirement account, domain names and vehicles.