Poker Player Arrested in Connection with Illegal Gambling

James Giordano, winner of the $1,000 buy-in event at the Bellagio Cup II in August, was arrested last week in Miami for allegedly heading one of the largest illegal gambling operations in U.S. history.

On Wednesday, the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Police Department made several arrests following the filing of 33 indictments against 27 people and 3 U.S. web technology companies. The arrests which stretched from New York to Florida and out to Nevada are all in connection with the bust of a high-flying gambling operation, Playwithal.com, that booked more than $3.3 billion in bets over 28 months; taking in a reported $2.5 million everyday in wagers.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a news conference, “The magnitude of this really boggles the mind. It rivals casinos for the amount of betting.” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said, “The $500 million asset forfeiture case is among the largest ever filed.” The scheme involved placing sports bets via a secure Internet site and toll-free “800” number. Bets were taken on all kinds of sports, including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, car racing, and golf.

Charges include enterprise corruption, money laundering, promoting gambling, conspiracy and the running of gambling collection rooms in locations from Miami to the isle of St. Maarten. Brown said, “The operation is proficient in the art of secreting and laundering millions of dollars through casinos, shell corporations, and international bank accounts.” Involved were 40,000 gamblers and about 2,000 bookies.

James Giordano is believed to be the ringleader and mastermind behind the illegal online gambling ring. Giordano was captured in his Florida compound as FBI agents scaled over its concrete walls. Three of his family members have been implicated in the investigation. Also arrested were alleged bookie Frank Falzarano a scout for the Washington Nationals and alleged enforcer, Steven Tarantino, reputed mobster with the Luchese crime family. Also facing charges are Primary Development Inc. accused of developing the betting Web site, Prolexic Technologies Inc., accused of providing security for Playwithal’s servers, and D.S. Networks SA Inc., which allegedly provided the gambling site with servers, data and software.

The actual investigation began as police caught a lucky break while looking into an unrelated case. A tip they received led to seizure of Giordano’s hard drive. Giordano left his laptop in a Nassau County hotel room while attending a family wedding. In the three hours he was gone New York Police Department investigators used a search warrant to get into his room and quickly copy the laptop’s hard drive. Police Deputy Insp. Brian O’Neill said, “We brought his computer back, hooked it up as close as possible to the way he left it and walked out.” The defendants are believed to have stashed away untold millions in Central America, the Caribbean, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. The assets seized include four Manhattan condominiums, millions in cash, thousands of dollars in casino chips, jewelry, gold coins, a football signed by the 1969 Super Bowl New York Jets, and original artwork by Peter Max and Salvador Dali.

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