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

Friday, October 1, 2010

10 plead guilty in Montreal Mafia sports gambling operation

National Hockey LeagueImage via WikipediaTen men face sentencing in January for their role in a lucrative Internet sports-gambling operation financed and supported by the highest levels of the Montreal Mafia.The major bookmaking case, which was expected to go to trial in November, ended quietly this week when the 10 men pleaded guilty to some of the charges they faced.
The bookmakers ran a website and a call centre from which they took bets on sporting events including professional football, baseball and hockey. A cut of the profits went directly to the Montreal Mafia in exchange for financial support and muscle when gamblers failed to pay up.
An analysis of evidence gathered while the RCMP secretly copied accounting records kept by the bookmakers revealed that during one 17-month period, they made $26-million profit from more than 800,000 wagers.
Anyone who placed a bet with the operation had to have an agent, or sponsor, who would vouch for the bettor's ability to cover a wager. Ninety per cent of the bets recorded were made without the bettor having to prove they had the money on hand.
Eight of the 10 men charged were able to plead guilty this week before Quebec Court Judge Claude Leblond to one count of illegal bookmaking, which carries a maximum two-year prison term.
Evidence filed in court indicated the two other men, Carmelo Cannistraro, 40, and Domenico Velenosi, 44, both of Laval, Que., played leadership roles in the operation. Both pleaded guilty to committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal organization, which carries a maximum 14-year prison term, and the same bookmaking charge as the others.
Cannistraro essentially ran every aspect of the profitable operation. He could increase a person's credit limit and cancel a bet. But evidence showed he was under the supervision of Francesco Del Balso and Lorenzo Giordano, two leaders in the Montreal Mafia who are currently serving lengthy prison terms.
Velenosi was believed to have been in charge of delivering a cut of the profits to Mafia leaders, such as Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., who had a reputation in the city's underworld as a person who dealt with conflicts over debts.
Mafia leaders also helped finance the operation.
In September 2004, Mafia leader Rocco Sollecito and Giordano were secretly recorded by police lamenting the National Hockey League lockout. Giordano noted that with its steady stream of games, the NHL was good for bookmakers. This was after Sollecito had agreed to help the operation through a lean period.
The case returns to court on Jan. 19 for sentencing.

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