Tech Firm Implicated in U.S. Gambling Case

November 24, 2006

The Costa Rican company Digital Solutions is being indicted by U.S. authorities for its alleged involvement in a $3.3 billion international online gambling enterprise.

The online gambling ring, whose alleged kingpin is a high-stakes gambler who has competed in the World Series of Poker, was busted in a staggering indictment last week that called for the arrest of dozens of people in four different U.S. states and other countries.

Digital Solutions, a tech support company that has offices in west San José, is implicated in the 27-person, three-company indictment for providing the enterprise’s Web site, playwithal.com, with servers, data and software, according to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in New York.

“They are a part of the criminal enterprise, and some of those crimes took place in Queens. So we’re going to go after the entire enterprise,” said Meris Campbell, spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney.

It’s the first case in which Internet gambling charges have been brought against anyone in the United States since Oct. 13, when U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law legislation that restricts U.S. residents from making bets with online gambling sites, Queens County Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

It’s also the first time an offshore Internet company has been charged with participating in a criminal enterprise, the statement said.

The Costa Rican company is being charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering in the first degree, and promoting gambling in the first degree, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges Digital Solutions, S.A., the company incorporated under the laws of Costa Rica, and its U.S. counterpart, D.S. Networks, S.A., Inc., provided the allegedly illegal online gambling site with its servers, data and software.

Campbell said authorities are pursuing the company through its Florida office. Digital Solutions’ lawyer in San José, Andrea Menéndez, told The Tico Times that as far as she knows there are no charges against the Costa Rican company.

“If that’s the case then you’re more informed than me,” she said Monday.

“We aren’t worried,” she continued, adding that the Costa Rican company, which has about 300 employees, is operating as usual. She said the company’s attorneys in the United States are taking care of the case.

The alleged ringleader of the international online sports betting ring is James W. Giordano, a high-profile poker player who has competed in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Also indicted in the case are a mob associate and a major League baseball scout, the New York Post reported.

The alleged ring was busted after authorities went to a wedding Giordano was at to execute a warrant for his arrest in July. Investigators busted into his hotel room while he wasn’t there, seized his laptop computer, and took it to another room where they cloned the hard drive, then put the computer back in his room, the Post reported.

Unknowingly, Giordano kept using his computer, allowing cops to watch all of his online gambling activities in real time, and collect evidence.

The evidence reportedly tied Giordano to some 40,000 customers who allegedly placed bets on football, baseball, golf and other sports with the help of the Web site playwithal.com.

Giordano allegedly ran the operation from a $10 million walled compound in Florida that was raided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last week. The suspect was taken to the Miami-Dade County Jail, where he was expected to be extradited to New York.

The case, in which authorities called for a $500 million asset forfeiture of the defendants’ property, “is among the largest such cases ever filed,” the statement said.

The ring, which authorities say had bank accounts around the world, including Switzerland, the Caribbean and Hong Kong, took an estimated $3.3 billion in wagers over the 28-month period it was under surveillance, according to the statement.

The case is the latest in a slew of arrests and indictments in the United States in which allegedly illegal online gambling enterprises with ties in Costa Rica have been implicated.

In September, Peter Dicks, chairman of London-based Sportingbet PLC, an online sports betting operation with a call center in Costa Rica, was arrested in a U.S. airport.

Dicks’ arrest came two months after online gambling company BetonSports’ executive David Carruthers was nabbed by U.S. authorities in a Texas airport. Soon after Carruthers’ arrest, the London-based BetonSports closed its Costa Rican call center in the San Pedro mall and laid off 1,200 workers (TT, July 21).

That same month, Houshang Pourmohamad was arrested in California for his connection to betheduck.com, an online gaming enterprise operating out of Costa Rica that allegedly was an illegal gambling and money laundering scheme (TT, Aug. 25).

 

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