Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Head of Staten Island-based gambling ring boasted he should run OTB, authorities allege

A strip mall in Castleton Corners served as home base for a sophisticated online betting scheme, and its head bragged that he ran the operation so well he should have been in charge of the state’s failed OTB, authorities allege.
By as recently as last month Joseph Stentella, 56, had about 600 people placing bets through his sprawling operation, with gamblers betting on horse races, football, basketball, hockey and mixed martial arts, according to federal documents.
He had become so big, those documents said, that he was caught bragging about the operation in a wiretapped phone conversation in January, authorities allege:
"Stentella boasted about his illegal gambling acumen, saying, in substance, that the State-run Off-Track Betting (‘OTB’) never would have gone out of business if the state had allowed the bookmakers to run it," reads a civil property forfeiture complaint filed today by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
"Stentella was confident of his ability to run the OTB well, stating that he ‘know(s) what (he’s) doing because (he’s) been doing this for 30 years.' "
The entire operation came crashing down today, with a series of raids on Staten Island and more than 20 arrests on the Island and in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The investigation was conducted by District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s office, the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Bureau, the New Jersey Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District.
pawsandclaws.jpgAuthorities also raided Pawz & Clawz Pet Supplies at 923 Manor Rd., the former Monte's Video.
Police arrested Stentella when they raided his 338 Westwood Ave. home early this morning, charging him with enterprise corruption, promoting gambling and money laundering.
Authorities also raided Pawz & Clawz Pet Supplies at 923 Manor Rd., the former Monte’s Video, which is located in a strip mall owned by a company run by Stentella’s wife, Maryann McCue Stentella.
The operation’s Web site, www.betjerrys.com, has been up since June 2001, according to cached Web archives. It’s since been replaced by a message saying the domain name has been seized by Homeland Security officials.
Even so, at least two of the phone numbers listed on an old version of the Web page appeared to be still taking bets — a man answering the phone asked for an account number and password.
When informed he was speaking to a reporter seeking comment, the man said, "I’m sorry sir, I can’t give you any information... No one can."
The strip mall served as Stentella’s base, the federal complaint alleges — he kept an office in Monte’s, where the operation’s members maintained records, watched video surveillance of a Staten Island "wire room" at 29 Sunset Ave. in Meiers Corners where the operation accepted bets, dropped off and stored deliveries of cash, and set up meetings with bettors and runners.
It’s the same strip mall where a detective in January opened fire on a drug suspect who allegedly drove his car into the officer.
Stentella changed the operation’s phones monthly, and in February 2010, he moved the wire room to Costa Rica, traveling there with his son Anthony, and another suspect, Freddy Miranda, to supervise the switch, authorities said.
In January 2009, detectives walked into Monte’s and found "only VHS tapes for rent" there, the federal complaint reads. "Generally, the VHS tapes included only obsolete movie titles. Further observation of pedestrian traffic entering and exiting Monte’s over a two-year- period showed no customers entering or leaving Monte’s with videos."
This past January, Stentella and his subordinates decided to turn the place into a more believable front, a pet supply company, authorities said.
Federal authorities are seeking to seize the entire strip mall, Stentella’s house, and two other locations — 46 Myrna Ln. in Arden Heights, and 257 Collfield Ave. in Willowbrook.
The Myrna Lane address was owned by the late Gerard Igneri — who authorities describe as a "sheet holder" or "runner" for the organization, responsible for soliciting bettors, settling individual wagers, and paying out to winners.
It now belongs to his wife, Rose, who authorities allege continued to field calls from runners, call bets into the wire room, and manage others lower in the organization’s hierarchy after her husband’s death last July.
The Collfield Avenue address belongs to Stentella’s first wife, Aida Stentella, according to federal court papers. His son, Anthony, also lives there and ran betting operations from the address, authorities allege.
The civil complaint offers a breakdown of the organization, alleging its members took on a variety of roles:
-- the "bookmaker," Joseph Stentella,
-- the "chief accountant," Steven Caranante,
-- the "chief clerks," Freddy Miranda and Anthony Stentella, Stentella’s son
-- the money collectors, Nedzad (Najo) Karastanovic, his wife, Salena Karastanovic, Thomas Trapas, Keith Mory and Daniel Venditti,
-- the "sheet holders" or "runners," Karastanovic, Trapas, James Fischetti, the late Gerard Ingeri, and his wife Rose.
It’s unclear who in the civil complaint will face criminal charges — authorities are planning a press conference for 2 p.m. today.



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