G911 Starts New Feature Series Terrible Touts: First Up the Sordid Saga of Johnny Demarco Lout of a Tout (Updated)

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Sports handicappers--also known as touts--are among the sleaziest and most corrupt members of the gambling industry.

Ridiculous claims of winning percentages of 70, 80 or even 90%, combined with come-ons such as a "Game of the Year" that's released every week or other scams, make these paid prognosticators of sporting events look like the con men that they are.
So in the vein of two other Gambling 911 ongoing series, the popular "Evil Poker Players" and the even more popular "Bookies Behaving Badly," Gambling 911 begins a new series of articles about handicappers and their scams that is being called "Terrible Touts."
First up in the new series is the sad saga of Atlanta's John L. Edens, aka "Johnny DeMarco."
Edens is his real name but like many cappers, he's used an alias--DeMarco--when he handicaps, in order to project a better or more marketable image, as well as make it harder for disgruntled clients to track him down and seek refunds for crappy handicapping.
Edens is such a scam artist that the popular sports magazine Sports Illustrated even profiled him in a memorable 1991 expose it ran on some of the worst and most crooked sports handicappers in the profession.
That article, written by Rick Reilly, read in part: "John L. Edens, alias Johnny DeMarco, the Babe Ruth of 900 sales pitchers, will make you wish Alexander Graham Bell had never been born. According to published ads and taped phone calls, Edens got on his 800 line and told listeners to call his 900 line for $25, 'and if the game loses, there'll be no charge.' That, of course, is a lie. Once a call is made on a 900 line, the charge is automatic.
"He also told customers of one of his phone services that his special guest-selector that day was 'a former six-time NBA basketball All-Star who wishes to remain anonymous due to security matters.' The anonymous 'All-Star' then got on the line and offered his inside information on 'three big plays, tonight.'
"Edens also told his customers on another occasion, 'Sporting Illustrated magazine calls the Handicapping Hotline the Number One value in sports.' Remarkably, there is no Sporting Illustrated.
"He also wrote in a print ad, which appeared in the schedule of games he sent out to customers in early 1991, that his service was rated 'the very best available by the Interstate Sports Commission, the nation's only legitimate monitoring service.' The ad failed to mention that the ISC is owned by a company with which, DeMarco acknowledges, he is 'affiliated.'
"Edens also got on his 800 line in March, 1989 and said he had spoken with then N.C. State coach Jim Valvano and had 'key' information on the Final Four. Valvano says he has never spoken to DeMarco."
Later in the S.I. article, Edens/DeMarco is interviewed by Reilly, and tells the writer: "Okay, so you go berserk on your ads, and some of those ads are a little ridiculous. But if you can get people under your belt, you can help them more than you hurt them. Most gamblers are losers. You slow the guy down so he's only betting a couple of games, not the whole board."
Edens is such a notorious "scamdicapper" that Sports Illustrated isn't the only major media outlet that has reported on him.
A 2012 investigation of Georgia sports handicappers by Atlanta television station WSB revealed that "in 1992, Edens settled a civil racketeering case with AT&T, stemming from his unpaid phone bills under fake names."
The TV report also revealed that "Edens had previously filed for bankruptcy and last year pleaded guilty to forgery in Forsyth County. He was also arrested for theft in Fulton County."
Atlanta Unfiltered (www.atlantaunfiltered.com), an Atlanta-based news website dedicated to investigative journalism, also did an expose on Edens in 2012 and reported details of the lawsuit AT&T filed against him: "Phone giant AT&T sued Edens in 1991 under civil provisions of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
"According to the suit, Edens had racked up $1.5 million in unpaid phone bills under 30 separate accounts. Each time AT&T shut down one of the phone lines for non-payment, the suit alleged, Edens used a made-up name to set up a new one. AT&T won an $800,000 judgment and accepted a $200,000 settlement."
The website spoke with the hapless handicapper, reporting that "Edens acknowledged in an interview that successful tout services, including his own, frequently relied on bogus marketing claims, with handicappers often exaggerating their success rates. In sworn depositions, he testified that he and similar services profited at the expense of compulsive gamblers."
Atlanta Unfiltered also reported that "in the mid-1990s, Edens temporarily housed what he now acknowledges was an illegal sportsbook operation outside of Atlanta."

In addition, the website revealed that Edens also ran a handicapping service called Sports Promotion Inc., which "advertised its network of toll-free numbers in newspapers nationwide and promoted a pay-per-call 900 number for handicapping services, including that of Edens’ tout alias, Johnny DeMarco.

"Sports Promotion’s phone lines also ran advertising that, Edens acknowledged, referred callers to offshore casinos that accepted bets. For a time, its toll-free numbers also provided callers a direct line to the Paradise Casino, a Caribbean gambling operation co-owned by Edens’ longtime friend and fellow tout Marc Meghrouni, head of the handicapping enterprise Jack Price Sports.

"Edens played an integral role in keeping the fledgling casino in business when a hurricane threatened to shut it down at the start of the 1995 NFL season. Edens said he set up the casino temporarily in a rented Duluth, Ga., apartment, installed phone lines there and had Paradise’s calls forwarded to them.

"Paradise eventually drew the attention of federal prosecutors, who charged the casino’s owners in 1999 with violating the Wire Act, money laundering and tax evasion. Meghrouni pled guilty and forfeited more than $11 million in assets."

In 2000, Edens was interviewed about his career by the Las Vegas Sporting News (LVSN), a national newspaper dedicated to handicapping and sports betting.

When an LVSN reporter asked the corrupt capper about some of the more controversial aspects of his crooked career, Edens threatened the reporter.

Despite the threat, LVSN ran its story on Edens and continued to report on the sleazy scamster's shenanigans.

And now Gambling 911 reports on him too.

UPDATE APRIL 2, 2018: After this article was published, Gambling 911 learned additional information, specifically that John L. Edens, aka Johnny DeMarco, had been in prison as recently as last year.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, "John Letcher Edens was sentenced to one year in federal prison for impersonating a United States Marshal. 'Edens misrepresented that he was a U.S. Marshal to gain sensitive personal information to use in his skip tracing business,' said U.S. Attorney John Horn.  'He abused the trust that is placed in law enforcement to make exigent requests for phone location data.  Instead of using the data to rescue kidnapped children, he used it to repossess cars.'
"According to Horn, the charges and other information presented in court, in October and November, 2014, Edens falsely claimed to be a Deputy U.S. Marshal and submitted exigent request forms to a cellular phone provider in order to obtain location information about private citizens. Edens then used that private location information for his business as a skip tracer, in which he located individuals for the purpose of repossessing their vehicles. Precise location information is provided by cellular phone companies to law enforcement with a search warrant, or when exigent circumstances require the disclosure of such information before a search warrant may be obtained. 
"When submitting the exigent request forms, Edens fraudulently represented that children had been kidnapped and were in immediate danger in order to trick the cellular provider into providing private citizens’ location information without a search warrant. In one instance, Edens even harassed a victim.
"On May 6, 2015, a grand jury charged Edens, 56, of Sandy Springs, Georgia, with seven counts of false impersonation of a U.S. Officer. Edens pleaded guilty to six of the seven counts on September 24, 2015. On February 10, 2016, U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross Sentenced Edens to one year and one day, and ordered him to serve three years of supervised release and pay a special assessment of $600.
"Said U.S. Marshall Beverly Harvard: 'When someone fraudulently represents themselves as a deputy U.S. Marshal – or any law enforcement officer – the consequences can be serious. Edens was able to gain access to non-public information, which allowed him to harass one victim. His crimes had the potential to damage the trust that the U.S. Marshals Service has worked long and hard to establish with the public, private companies and fellow law enforcement agencies.' "

By Tom Somach

Gambling 911 Staff Writer


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