NEWARK – 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, on-line 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 14th defendant is charged with transmission of wagering information.
“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,” 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 was allegedly 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 alleged 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, allegedly 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 allegedly 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 allegedly 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 allegedly had the ability, through the website, to create packages for sub-agents. Sub-agents, who also were members or associates of the Lascala Crew, allegedly 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.
The website was maintained in Costa Rica and referred to as the “office.” Although the website was maintained in Costa Rica, the bettors allegedly 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 allegedly converted these losses in debts that the bettor was required to repay. Allegedly, 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.
Allegedly, 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 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 13 defendants are charged with Racketeering Conspiracy in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962(d). This count carries a maximum term of twenty 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.
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 N.J. 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.
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