Thirteen individuals, including one alleged member of the Genovese organized crime family and 12 members and associates of its LaScala Crew, were charged today in connection with an illegal online gambling operation, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
The defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy in a complaint unsealed this morning in conjunction with arrests in the case. Two defendants remain at large. A fourteenth defendant is charged with transmission of wagering information. The defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark S. Falk in Newark federal court.
“The acts alleged in this criminal complaint show that traditional organized crime continues to pursue its bread and butter—illegal gambling, loan-sharking, and cargo theft,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “The new wrinkle here is the use of off-shore sites and the Internet for processing bets. Law enforcement will use countermeasures that are just as sophisticated to bring these criminal enterprises to justice.”
“Today’s arrests serve as a stark reminder that traditional organized crime continues to operate in New Jersey,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Ward said. “Bookmaking, loan-sharking, cargo thefts, and illegal gambling in social clubs are the staples by which organized crime funds further criminal activity. The use of Internet gambling and off shore locales demonstrates an evolution and increased sophistication, but the threat of force or violence to serve their purpose remains the same, as does the negative impact of organized crime on the citizens of this state.”
According to the complaint unsealed this morning in Newark federal court:
The Genovese crime family of La Cosa Nostra operated out of smaller groups, sometimes referred to as “crews,” that operated in northern New Jersey and elsewhere. Each crew was headed by a “captain,” “capo,” or “skipper.” Each captain’s crew consisted of “soldiers” and “associates.” The captain was responsible for supervising the criminal activities of his crew and providing the crew with support and protection. In return, the captain often received a share of the crew’s earnings.
Joseph Lascala, 80, of Monroe, New Jersey was a capo and a made member of the Genovese crime family, directing various criminal activities of a group of associates referred to in the complaint as the “Lascala Crew.” These activities included the theft of goods and cargo, the receipt of stolen property in interstate commerce, extortion, illegal gambling, and the collection of unlawful debt.
Members and associates of the Lascala Crew and others, together with individuals that own and operate the website Beteagle.com (“website”), used the website to profit through the operation of an illegal gambling business that operated in northern New Jersey and elsewhere.
High-level associates of the Lascala Crew acted as “agents” of an illegal gambling business that was operated through the website. Before the advent of computerized betting, these agents would be referred to as “bookmakers” or “bookies.” Through the use of a username and password, the agents accessed the website and tracked the bets or wagers placed by their bettors. This “electronic portfolio” was referred to as the agent’s “package.” The agent also had the ability, through the website, to create packages for sub-agents. Sub-agents, who also were members or associates of the Lascala Crew, operated under the agent, maintained their own bettors, had access to the website related to their package, and were required to share their profits with the agent and ultimately, Lascala.
Bettors first received a username and password from the agent or sub-agent, which could be used to place bets. The bettor, however, did not use a credit card to either access the website or to pay gambling losses or to receive gambling winnings. The bettor usually was assigned or chose a player name, such as “Shark,” “Colt,” or “Ace.” The agent or sub-agent also established a betting limit for each bettor. The bettor used his or her user name and password to place bets through the website or over the telephone.
The website was maintained in Costa Rica and referred to as the “office.” Although the website was maintained in Costa Rica, the bettors either paid money for losses or received money for winnings from the agent, his sub-agent, or their co-conspirators in New Jersey. If a bettor was unable or unwilling to repay gambling losses, then the agent or sub-agent converted these losses in debts that the bettor was required to repay. The agent or sub-agent often tacked exorbitant amounts of interest onto these debts and they used extortionate means to collect these debts, including the express or veiled threat that the agent, sub-agent, or their co-conspirators had the backing of the Genovese crime family.
After the agent obtained money, usually in the form of cash, from his sub-agents or directly from the bettors, the agent kept a portion of the cash for himself and then distributed the remainder of the money, through intermediaries, to others, including members and associates of the Lascala Crew and the individuals who owned and maintained the Website.
The Lascala Crew, in confederation with the website, directed, coached, assisted, and caused bettors in New Jersey and elsewhere to place wagers on sporting events and contests, such as football.
The complaint details a recorded conversation wherein defendant Joseph Graziano describes the operation:
“You’re in the wrong business now, you know?…You should be in the sports business….They’re gonna build it up to, like, [expletive] no end….I call the kid up. In the office down there, I’m really proud of him. I mean, he has 50 phones in his [expletive] place….And, it’s nice, it’s like an auction…”
The Lascala Crew also profits by operating social clubs in northern New Jersey and elsewhere. At these social clubs, members of the Lascala Crew profit through card games and other illegal games of chance.
The complaint also charges that the Lascala Crew engages in cargo theft and the receipt and sale of stolen goods in interstate commerce, which stolen goods the members of the Lascala Crew refer to as S.W.A.G. (stolen without a gun).
The defendants named in the complaint are:
The defendants named in the complaint are:
|Joseph Lascala, 80
||Monroe, New Jersey
|Patsy Pirozzi, 72
||Suffern, New York
|John Breheney, 47
||Johnny Fugazi, Fu, Johnny Fu
||Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey
|Eric Patten, 35
||Bayonne, New Jersey
|Franklin Militello*, 71
||The Flea, The Fox
|Mark Sanzo, 53
|Robert Scerbo*, 54
|William Bruder, 42
|Michael O’Donnell, 48
||Wall, New Jersey
|Salvatore Turchio, 44
||Little Egg Harbor
|Jose Gotay, 74
||New Milford, New Jersey
|Joseph Graziano, 75
||Joe Graz, Graz
||Springfield, New Jersey
|Dominick Barone, 42
|Kenneth Baran, 49
(*not in custody)
Each of the defendants, with the exception of defendant Kenneth Baran, is charged with racketeering conspiracy in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962(d). This count carries a maximum term of 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
Defendant Ken Baran is charged with transmission of wagering information, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1084 and Section 2. This count carries a maximum term of two years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark; the Special Investigations Unit of the Bayonne Police Department, under the direction of Chief Robert Kubert; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge JoAnn S. Zuniga; the New Jersey State Police, under the direction of Col. Rick Fuentes; and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Peter E. Warshaw, with the investigation leading to today’s arrests.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Moscato and Serina M. Vash of the Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.