Bookies Behaving Badly: Five Years Now Since WSEX Went Bust, Jay Cohen Fleeced Hundreds

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For the past few years, readers have eagerly followed the antics of rogue bookmakers in Gambling 911's popular ongoing series, "Bookies Behaving Badly." 

And now, as we near the fifth anniversary of the collapse of his biggest scam, Gambling 911 recalls the sordid tale of slimy Internet bookie Jay Cohen--perhaps the biggest bandit in bookmaking history.
Cohen grew up in a middle-class home on Long Island and then attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied nuclear science.
But after graduating, he didn't take a job in the nuclear or scientific fields--they didn't pay enough.
Already exhibiting the signs of greed that would later shatter so many lives, Cohen took a high-paying job as a stockbroker at the Pacific Exchange in San Francisco.
At the Exchange he would meet another broker, a former Chicagoan named Steve Schillinger, and a low-level "gofer" from Boston named Haden Ware who fetched ham sandwiches for Schillinger.
Schillinger was the in-house bookie at the Exchange, booking sports bets from his co-workers.
When one of those co-workers got heavily in debt to Schillinger, the co-worker asked his parents for money to pay the bookie, but instead the parents reported Schillinger to Exchange officials and Schillinger was immediately fired.
The year was 1996.
The Internet was just starting to gain in popularity and become ubiquitous.
Looking for employment, Schillinger conviced Cohen and Ware to quit the Exchange and come with him to the tiny twin-island Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, where the trio would set up the world's first Internet sportsbook, called World Sports Exchange (WSEX for short).
Run out of a decrepit shopping mall in the country's capital city on Antigua, St. John's, WSEX went into business in 1997.
Schillinger and Ware stayed mostly out of public view, as Schillinger handled the daily odds-making for WSEX and Ware continued as his errand boy.
But Cohen became the very public front man for WSEX, doing numerous media interviews in which, in an effort to attract customers, he repeatedly lied and said that WSEX wasn't breaking any U.S. laws by taking sports wagers from bettors in the U.S.
Cohen did some big-time interviews, including television interviews with CBS' "60 Minutes" and HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," and even debated the legality of online gambling with the Wisconsin attorney general on CNBC.
But Cohen's most memorable media interview came in 1998, when he sat down with a reporter from the magazine "Sports Illustrated" and again insisted his company was 100% legal.
Shockingly, the pompous Cohen even dared the Feds to come after him if they disagreed.
Just weeks after those comments were reported in S.I., Cohen, Schillinger, Ware and 18 others from rival Internet gambling operations--the infamous "Internet 21"--were busted by U.S. Federal authorities and charged with various crimes.
Cohen was the only one of the 21 to stand trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to a year and a half in Federal prison.
After Cohen got out of the pen, a condition of his release was that he could no longer have anything to do with WSEX or Internet gambling.
But the arrogant Cohen thumbed his nose at the rules and returned to Antigua, where he resumed running WSEX with Schillinger and Ware.
Now a few years into the 21st Century, WSEX was thriving and making millions of dollars a year for its owners, despite now having numerous competitors in the online bookmaking business.
But then about a decade in to the new century--2011 to be exact--avaricious Cohen decided he wasn't making enough money.
He decided to stop paying WSEX customers their rightful winnings and instead steal all their funds.
It was the start of a brazen daylight heist that took place in public and lasted two years, until WSEX's demise.
WSEX just stopped paying winners any of their winnings.
Since most WSEX bettors lost, however, most had no idea WSEX had shut down payouts, unless they read Internet message boards decrying the scam.
Then, in spring of 2013, nearly five years ago this week, WSEX announced on its website, WSEX.com, that it was pulling the plug and going out of business.
No mention was made in the announcement about WSEX customers collecting the monies in their wagering accounts.
Those customers would be stiffed out of all their funds.
A few days after WSEX shut down, Schillinger was found dead in his St. John's condo with a bullet in his brain, a gun in his hand and a suicide note at his feet.
Ware had earlier fled to Europe.
Cohen triumphantly returned to San Francisco, having successfully stolen millions of dollars from WSEX bettors.
One sportsbetting watchdog site reported that Cohen and WSEX had fleeced hundreds of customers out of their funds.
Estimates of the total amount of loot stolen by the smirking, square-headed, former nuclear science student-turned-stockbroker and his flim-flam firm ranged as high as $20 million.
With Schillinger dead and Ware on the lam, Cohen likely pocketed most if not all of the ill-gotten gains.
And to this day, con man and ex-con Cohen lives freely in San Francisco, with the stolen cash likely stashed in secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland or elsewhere.
And that's why Jay Cohen is not just a bookie behaving badly, but perhaps the baddest bookie of all time and the baddest-behaving bookie of all time, too.
By Tom Somach
Gambling 911 Staff Writer


Bookies Behaving Badly Part 1: Wife Shot 13 Times

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 2: This Cross Dresser Once Feasted on Cocaine

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 3: The Lawsuit Edition

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 4: Pay Mob Protection or End Up as 'Trunk Music'

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 5: Shill Edition

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 6: Mark Del Popolo, Attorney at Flaw

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 7: Al Ross Was Bad, His Son Denny Was Worse

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 8: Rogue Ref's Bookies Almost Brought Down NBA

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 9: Hayden Ware, Conman Turned Convict

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 10: Rich Ciarlante Created the Bonus....And His Demise

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 11: Wu Done It? Forensic Files and the Greek

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 12: How a Blackjack Pro Took Down a Drug Gambling Empire

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 13: The Curious Case of the Clueless Culosi

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 14: LiveSports.ag Goes Ballistic on Player (Listen Here)

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 15: ‘You F***ing Thief, You F***ing Monkey’

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 16: ‘I’m in Charge! Go F*** Yourself B****!'

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 17: ‘Bad Ass’ Granny Dubbed ‘320’, Refuses to Rat

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 18: Platinum Sports Saga Finally Ends With Guilty Plea, Crippled Mom of Three

Bookies Behaving Badly Part 19:  'I'm God and Your Account is Closed'

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