14 arrested in sports-betting ring, FBI says

LOS ANGELES – An investigation into an illegal sports-betting ring netted 14 arrests Wednesday, including a Menifee man and a Santa Clarita man who authorities say was the boss of the organization, officials said.

Cyrus Irani, 37, the alleged boss, was taken into custody at his home, the FBI reported. Irani was among 17 people who had been indicted by a grand jury in Queens County, New York.

Three of suspects remain at large.

The grand jury indicted the 17 people in New York, Nevada, Arizona and California on charges of “unlawfully operating a highly sophisticated sports gambling enterprise that stretched westward from Queens County and utilized offshore-based gambling websites,” an FBI statement said.

“The enterprise, which is alleged to have annually booked more than $32 million in bets, is also accused of laundering its criminal proceeds by depositing and withdrawing large sums of cash from various banks throughout the United States,” the FBI reported.

Among the others arrested today in the Southland were:

-- Clark W. Bruner of Downey, 56, who is alleged to have been Irani's second-in-command, known as a “primary agent.” Bruner allegedly administrated the accounts, managed various “agents,” and collected winnings from the agents.

-- Bruner's sons, Chris Bruner of Downey, 31, and Clark “CJ” Bruner, 33, of Menifee, both of whom are alleged to have been agents.
-- Saul Salami of Santa Clarita, 45, alleged to have been an agent.

-- Cassondra Smith-Luttman of San Diego, 32, alleged to have been an agent.

-- Julio Alvarenga of Santa Clarita, 40, alleged to have been an agent.

-- Jeffrey Metelitz of Valencia, 54, alleged to have been an agent.

-- Hyun “David” Chang of Long Beach, 37, alleged to have been a money collector; and

-- Thomas Cortese of Santa Barbara, 49.

Two Southern California suspects, Andres Arriaga of Valencia, 41, alleged to have been an agent, and Richard Vanderwyk of Seal Beach, 41, who is alleged to have been a money collector, remain at large.

According to the FBI, the operation used the offshore website, 365action.com, to allow betting on both professional and college basketball, football, hockey and baseball. It also used an 800 phone number.

There allegedly were more than 2,000 “active bettors.” Investigators have seized more than $3 million from bank accounts allegedly controlled by Irani.

And back in Feb.....

Florida sports betting bust; Minnesota betting bill; NJ v. Leagues latest

Florida authorities have broken up an illegal online sports betting ring with alleged ties to New York’s Genovese organized crime family. Four individuals appeared at a Broward County bail hearing this week after being arrested with four other men last week following a 16-month investigation.

The accused are facing multiple counts of bookmaking, racketeering conspiracy, money laundering and using two-way communications to facilitate a felony. The credit betting ring reportedly used password-protected websites based outside the country to process wagers while moving money via a network of agents and couriers. Police seized $1.2m from bank accounts, safe deposit boxes and the defendants’ homes.

The multi-state operation, which involved 10 different law enforcement agencies including the FBI, has connections to the federal indictment in August of reputed Genovese family member Daniel Pagano. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the Florida arm of the ring took in $1.2m since the investigation began in 2013.


As promised, Minnesota state Rep. Phyllis Kahn introduced the latest version of her
sports betting bill this week. The HF 765 legislation (read it here) would allow Minnesotans 21 years of age or older to place wagers on sporting events except those involving collegiate events featuring Minnesota teams.

The bill envisions a prime role for the Minnesota Lottery, either offering wagers on its own or in conjunction with a private operator, or merely acting in an oversight capacity. Wagers would have to be made in person – no internet wagers allowed – at ’sports wagering lounges,’ which could include state racetracks. Net winnings will be taxed at 8%. Rules for maximum wagers, the use of credit, the types of wagering tickets and license fees have yet to be determined.

If approved, the bill would take effect July 1, 2015. Should the bill pass, Kahn has said she hopes the state will challenge the 1992 federal PASPA sports betting prohibition in a different federal court district than the one that keeps knocking back New Jersey’s efforts to introduce its own legal sports betting system.


Speaking of, the NCAA and the four pro sports leagues opposing New Jersey’s sports betting quest filed their latest briefs with the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday. As with previous filings, the gist is that the state’s plans to
tolerate but not officially regulate sports betting at Atlantic City casinos and state racetracks are “cosmetic efforts” to circumvent PASPA.

The leagues say New Jersey’s 2014 law is “no more consistent with PASPA than the invalidated 2012 Law” because the law “ensures that sports gambling will occur only under the conditions of the state’s choosing.” Sparing no rhetorical flourishes, the leagues argue that New Jersey had a choice between either upholding PASPA or announcing an all-out statewide repeal of sports betting, but is instead creating “islands of state-authorized gambling’ in a “sea of prohibitions on sports (and other) gambling.”

Channeling baseball great Yogi Berra, the leagues say the 2014 law is “a case of déjà vu all over again” and the fact that New Jersey doesn’t want to accept the Court’s previous rulings “does not entitle them to another bite at the constitutional apple.”

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