Three Plead Guilty in BetonSports Case

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Three Florida men pleaded guilty in federal court in St. Louis Wednesday to online gambling-related charges, marking a first in attempts to shut down online gambling, prosecutors said.

The three are the first individuals to plead guilty in the case involving BetOnSports, which was once one of the largest online gambling companies in the world, and the first convictions of a "non-gambling entity" like an advertising or marketing company for a gambling-related crime, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Holtshouser said.

BetOnSports founder Gary ­Kaplan and former Chief Executive David Carruthers were among those indicted in 2006 on racketeering conspiracy charges and accused of reaping billions illegally from U.S. online gamblers.

The charges effectively killed the company, which pleaded guilty last year and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

Prosecutors have now reached the same agreement with a family that was heavily involved in promoting BetOnSports in the United States.

William Hernan Lenis, 55, who is known as "Bill," pleaded guilty to interstate transportation of gambling paraphernalia and admitted that his company Mobile Promotions sent logo-wrapped motor homes to sporting events across the country to promote BetOnSports, recruit new gamblers and collect signatures to try to change gambling laws.

The RVs had computers and mobile phones so gamblers could place bets, and one was parked at a Rams home game on Oct. 20, 2002.

Bill Lenis also admitted that Lenis family members, including son William Luis Lenis, known as "Will," nephew Manny Lenis and daughter Monica Lenis worked with him on the project.

Bill Lenis also admitted that his company Direct Mail Expertise mailed 2 million to 3 million ads for BetOnSports per year between 2000 and 2006 and dealt directly with Kaplan relatives Neil Kaplan and Lori Kaplan.

Will Lenis, 28, pleaded guilty to transmission of wagering information and faces a year or less in prison. He admitted that he helped an undercover police officer make a bet in a BetOn-Sports RV in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 22, 2002.

Manny Lenis, 29, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to pay a wagering tax and is likely to face probation or six months or less in prison. He admitted accepting a bet from an undercover police officer on the same date as his cousin.

In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges against the men, and to drop charges against Monica Lenis.

Will Lenis and Manny Lenis also may be rewarded under federal sentencing guidelines with even less time for cooperating with investigators.

Holtshouser would not comment on how the pleas might affect the cases against the other defendants.

"If they testify truthfully, I don't think it would have any ... adverse effect on Neil Kaplan's case," said his lawyer, Brian Steel.

Reached in London, Gary Kaplan's lawyer, Chris Flood, said, "This has no effect on Mr. ­Kaplan's defense and we understand why ... the Lenis family would feel compelled to enter their pleas."


Robert Patrick, St Louis Dispatch

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