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‘Violent’ Online Gambling Ring With Ties to Norway, Peru Taken Down (Video)

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Jun/19/2013
‘Violent’ International Online Gambling Ring With Ties to Norway Taken Down (Vid

Feds swarmed several residents from San Diego to Los Angeles early Wednesday, arresting individuals tied to what they deemed to be a “violent” international gambling ring.

Gambling911.com first reported the arrest of La Jolla, California resident Amir Mokayef, 37, who authorities say ran an Internet sports betting site called Macho Sports.  Mokavef had previously been convicted for running an illegal sports betting operation back in 2001.  The MachoSports.com website remained up and running as of late Wednesday.

A total of 18 men were indicted on charges of racketeering, extortion, and running the sports betting ring from Peru to avoid U.S. law enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Others indicted included Benjamin John William Weber, 27, of La Mesa, Howard Alan Blum, 51, of Carlsbad, and Michael Christopher Iaco, 30, Salvatore Giacomo Groppo, 37, and Michael John Massey, 41, all of San Diego.  Another defendant, Erik Portocarrero, was arrested by foreign counterparts in Oslo, Norway.

The ring is alleged to have taken in millions of dollars over the last decade.

“The organization ensured the prompt payment of gambling debts through the use of intimidation, threats and violence as well as fostering a violent reputation as to its treatment of delinquent customers,” prosecutors said in a news release.

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FBI Special Agent in Charge, Daphne Hearn, commented, “This case highlights the connection between illegal Internet gambling operations and the violence associated with this type of racketeering activity. Criminal enterprises like ‘Macho Sports’ and their U.S.-based ‘bookmakers’ prey on the gambling addictions of their betting customers, wreaking havoc on people’s lives and the lives of family members.”

Mokavef’s role was to recruit customers while paying off winning bets and collecting on losses within the San Diego area, according to authorities. 

A four-month investigation into Macho Sports resulted in the arrests along with the seizure of computer equipment, records and more than $570,000 in cash.  The Feds are seeking the forfeiture of another $5 million.

- Chris Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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