Posted on: September 15, 2022, 06:39h.
Last update on: September 16, 2022, 04:50h.
An illegal Brooklyn-based online gambling business that was allegedly under the protection of the Lucchese Crime Family was offering gamblers “crooked customer services,” prosecutors said Wednesday. Their policy was, “Do as we say or face terrifying consequences.”
That’s according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. On Wednesday, he unveiled an indictment charging five defendants for their roles in “Rhino Sports.”
It was a “price per head” book-making venture, allegedly overseen by a noted Lucca soldier, the aptly named 57-year-old Anthony Villani.
Villani has a history of gambling-related arrests dating back to 1988. In 2004, he went digital, according to the indictment.
Rhino Sports ran for 16 years until 2020 and was used by around 400 to 1,300 players per week, most of whom were based in New York.
What is price-per-head bookmaking?
Illegal gambling and extortion are stable and reliable sources of income for the New York mafia. But in recent years, the Mob has moved its traditional bookmaking operations around the corner online.
The ‘price per head’ model of bookmaking typically involves agent-bookmakers who give customers usernames and passwords that allow them to access offshore websites where they can place bets.
No financial transactions are carried out online. But betting details are stored and tracked on the site. Many of these offshore sites are based in Costa Rica, where they are legal, and this was the case with the Rhino Sports site.
Collections and payments are made in person, by agents. Gamblers in debt are often ‘persuaded’ to borrow money at high interest rates from mafia loan sharks to continue gambling.
Villani’s bookmakers-agents included members and associates of the Lucchese family and other La Cosa Nostra families, prosecutors say.
Also named in the indictment are Louis “Tooch” Tucci, Jr., 59, and Dennis Filizzola, 58, who worked as a “muscle” agent, collecting money from clients.
James “Quick” Coumoutsos, 59, and Michael “Platinum” Praino, 44, are described in court documents as “significant bookmakers and revenue generators to the business.”
In 2020, as the pandemic hit, the FBI bugged Villani. The famous Lucchese made man was recorded discussing the idea of diversifying inro casino gaming instead of sports betting at a time when most sports were cancelled.
Villani and his co-defendants are charged with racketeering in connection with participating in various criminal schemes. These included illegal gambling, money laundering and extortion attempts.
“As alleged, this conduct demonstrates how members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering schemes that lead to threats of violence against anyone who stands in their way and have generated millions of dollars in profits for the Luchese crime family,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said.
“These charges illustrate this office’s continued commitment to rooting La Cosa Nostra outside of New York City,” he added.