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Seventeen accused of involvement in illegal gambling scheme in NY state

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Seventeen people have been listed in an 84-count criminal indictment alleging participation in a criminal enterprise, which allegedly ran loansharking and illegal gambling activities.

The indictment was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Richmond.

According to the indictment, members of the alleged criminal enterprise include members of the Gambino crime family, one of five “traditional” organised crime families operating in New York and through the US.

“The other four families are the Bonanno crime family, Colombo crime family, Genovese crime family and Lucchese crime family,” reads the indictment. “The families are part of a criminal network variously known as “the Mafia”, “the Mob” and “La Cosa Nostra”.”

It is alleged that three of the defendants – John J LaForte, Anthony J Cinque Jr and John Matera – delegated the monitoring of illegal loansharking and illegal gambling to Edward A LaForte, an associate of the group. Edward was assisted by other Gambino associates, as well a Colombo associate and other participants.

The indictment states that between 15 September 2022 and 29 March 2023, the criminal enterprise amassed 70 bettors who placed an estimated $22.7m (£17.7m/€20.8m) in illegal bets through Edward A LaForte’s master agent betting account. These bets were placed through www.ubet1288.com, an illegal gambling site.

The indictment also lists a number of dates throughout 2022 and 2023 where several of the defendants are named as committing the crime of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree. On these dates, the defendants are alleged to have accepted or received more than five bets totalling over $5,000.

How was the illegal gambling scheme operated?

Edward LaForte is accused of having a managerial role in the criminal enterprise, particularly in relation to the illegal gambling activities.

“In this role, Edward A LaForte managed sheetholders and bettors, including providing each with their own combination of account username and password,” the indictment continues. “Edward A LaForte also paid the illegal gambling website to allow his bettors and sheetholders to continually use the platform.”

In total, ten people were listed as sheetholders in the indictment. A sheetholder manages bets and collections for individual players.

These people reported to Edward LaForte with any issues related to the bettors. They also collected losses and provided winnings to players. He was also responsible for ensuring the proceeds of the scheme were transferred to John LaForte and Cinque Jr.

Downstate casino project faces uncertain future

Elsewhere in New York state, plans for a downstate New York casino project were thrown into jeopardy last month after Senator Jessica Ramos spoke out against plans outlined by Steve Cohen, a hedge-fund billionaire.

Cohen’s plans would see an $8bn development – named Metropolitan Park – built at Citi Field, stadium of the New York Mets in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, in partnership with Hard Rock International.

Ramos said she would not introduce legislation that would downgrade the existing parkland in Corona. This is needed to allow its renovation into the casino.

“We want investment and opportunity, we are desperate for green space and recreation for the whole family,” Ramos said. “We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the trade-off.”

If it comes to fruition, the casino would feature an entertainment complex, a Hard Rock hotel and gaming facilities, as well as a live music venue.

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