BetEagle Owner Pleads Guilty to Racketeering
BetEagle was an online sportsbook that served gamers during the turn of the century, just when online sports betting was taking off. Instead of becoming one of the big players in the industry, as many rivals did during that time, BetEagle has faded into history. However, the BetEagle story goes beyond simple business failures and is instead played like a crime movie, with links to the mob and gambling scams.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the incredible history of BetEagle and how its owner, Joseph Graziano, finally found himself in jail. Like all good crime stories, there is a definitive timeline to this story, so let’s take it step by step.
2009: BetEagle was a popular online casino and bookmaker that seemed like a legitimate gambling venue to many players. Little did gamblers know that there was something dirty under the surface. In fact, it is debatable whether BetEagle was ever legally operated. What is not in doubt is that BetEagle at some point became an uproar for an organized crime network.
Red flags were raised in 2009 when two players filed disputes, claiming that thousands of dollars were stolen by rogue betting agents. Before the advent of the internet gambling era, agents were simply called bookies or bookies. Either way, BetEagle claimed that it did not manage agents and would not reimburse players.
Worse still, the agent was allowed to continue trading on the platform. In another twist, BetEagle announced that it would no longer receive deposits from new players. In other words, the website knew the heat was on and the game was over.
2011: Fast forward to 2011 and the walls were closing in on BetEagle and Graziano. To invade authorities and investigations that seemed safe, the company changed domain. By getting rid of the .com domain, the company adopted .ag.
2012: That domain change kept authorities away from BetEagle’s door, but only for a few months. By 2012, researchers were closing in. BetEagle was charged with working with a member of the Genovese organized crime family and 12 members of the LaScala Crew. Online bookmakers and mob connections, there’s a movie somewhere.
US Attorney Paul J. Fishman charged the group with participating in an illegal online gambling scheme. Each of the thirteen defendants was arrested and charged with racketeering conspiracy. Another fourteenth member was believed to be involved and accused of relaying gambling information.
Among the group of defendants were representatives of BetEagle, including its owner Joseph Graziano. Each was charged with using the website to conduct illegal sports betting operations in New Jersey. Members of the organized crime family would act as agents for an illegal gambling ring that was available on BetEagle.
2014: Two years later, the prosecution had a case against the defendants. Graziano joined four others to plead guilty in federal court in Newark. He admitted to running an illegal online sports betting operation linked to the Genovese crime family. Along with his employee Dominick Barone, Graziano pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy. He was ordered to pay $ 1.1 million to the court.
2015: A year later, Joseph Graziano was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his involvement in the crime.
BetEagle Owner Pleads Guilty to Racketeering
The owner of BetEagle is one of five men who have pleaded guilty in a Newark federal court to running an illegal sportsbetting site in New Jersey in association with the Genovese crime family.
BetEagle owner Joseph Graziano and his employee Dominick Barone were each charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy and ordered to forfeit $1 million and $100,000 to the court, respectively. Earlier in the week, Mark Sanzo, Robert Scerbo, and William Bruder also pleaded guilty to the same charge.
All five men are New Jersey residents and were among 13 defendants arrested in May 2012 for their ties to the New Jersey faction of the Genovese Cosa Nostra. Among them is 81-year-old Joseph Lascala, an alleged capo (or captain) of the crew, who is charged with directing its criminal enterprises, which, as well as illegal gambling, allegedly included theft and extortion.
The Genovese crime family is the most powerful of the “Five Families” that operate organized crime in New York City. The family is run through smaller groups, sometimes referred to as “crews,” each headed by a “capo” and consisting of “soldiers” and “associates.”
Threats and Intimidation
BetEagle was a gambling site, supposedly licensed in Costa Rica, that operated at a local level in Northern New Jersey, as a “price-per-head” site. The court heard that mafia associates would act as agents (or bookmakers) of the business and would give local customers a user-name and a password to access the site and place bets. However, no money or credits were made or transferred through the website.
Instead, details of bets would be stored and tracked on the site, while collections were made in person, and customers unable or unwilling to pay debts would be met with threats and intimidation, as well as assurances that the company had the backing of the Genovese crime family. Customers would be forced to cough up interest, as well as the original sum owed.
There are also historical allegations on industry watchdog forums that suggest that some customers who had won large amounts through BetEagle were not paid out. According to prosecutors, money was distributed between the agents, the Lascala Crew, and Graziano and his employees. They claim that Graziano and Barone worked together maintaining the business and technology of the website.
BetEagle.ag Still Operating?
Ironically, in a New York Times article of 2012 that looked at the phenomenon of “price per head” sports betting, websites proclaimed that such sites “attract an increasingly diverse customer base, with demographics far beyond the stereotypical image of the mob-connected bookie.”
And curiously, while the BetEagle.com domain has been shut down, BetEagle.ag appears to still be in operation. Dot.AG is an Antigua and Barbuda domain name.
“With more than 16 successful years in the industry, BetEagle.ag offers a smooth, hassle-free gaming experience that is simply world-class,” the site proclaims.
Sentencing for Barone is scheduled for November 12, 2014, and for Graziano, November 18, 2014. The count of racketeering conspiracy carries a maximum potential punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
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