Officials in the United States have unsealed an indictment against 12 men for their involvement in a Costa Rica-based online gambling site. Eight arrests were made Monday in New York,Maryland and Massachusetts, but the alleged ringleader, Carmen Cicalese, is still at large, possibly in Costa Rica.
Online gambling is effectively illegal in the United States following the adoption in 2006 of a law banning credit card companies from process payments to online gambling Web sites, a move that essentially closed the lucrative U.S. market to foreign companies.
Carmen Cicalese is alleged to have operated several Web sites, including betwestsports.com, and a toll-free call center that were collectively known as the “Cicalese Wireroom.”
The business worked by getting hundreds of U.S. bookies to sign gamblers up to the Web site, allowing them to bet over the phone or via the Internet. The individual bookmakers were responsible for collecting and paying out money from clients. The Cicalese Wireroom charged a fee of $15 to $30, collected in person by two so-called “runners,” per registered gambler per week to process online and telephone bets. Patrick Cicalese allegedly would collect the money from the runners and then move it out of the United States to Costa Rica by courier, debit cards and electronic transfers, according to the LawFuel news service.
The 12 defendants are charged with a range of offenses, including illegal gambling and conspiracy to commit money laundering for their involvement in the operation, which, according to the news agency Reuters, reaped millions of dollars a year since it began operating in 2005. Those charged include several bookmakers who used Cicalese Wireroom.