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Associated Press: Sports Bettor Guilty in Setting Car on Fire

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Published on:
Dec/31/2009
A Staten Island man has pleaded guilty to setting a former employee's Mercedes-Benz on fire in Ocean County in 2004 out of revenge, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

James LaForte Jr., 32, also admitted Dec. 21 to handing out high-interest loans and then using threats and violence to collect on them - loan-sharking and extortion schemes that carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the attorney's office said.

The arson against the employee, who left LaForte's real estate title company, Richmond Abstract, and took other workers with him, carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. LaForte's partner, Francis Alfieri, 31, of Staten Island, pleaded guilty to the loan-sharking charge July 6 and is to be sentenced Feb. 9.

Additionally, on Wednesday, LaForte's brother Joseph W. LaForte admitted in federal court to operating an illegal off-shore sports gambling enterprise that did business in New Jersey, New York, Florida and elsewhere, the U.S. Attorney said.

The 39-year-old Staten Island man, who is currently serving time in New York state prison on unrelated charges, conspired with others from 2005 through early 2006 to direct bettors to place bets on a foreign Internet gambling site. They provided the bettors, some of whom were employees at LaForte's Florida mortgage company, with the Web address, user names and passwords so they could place wagers on sporting events online, LaForte admitted. He faces a maximum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for April         

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