OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses 34 people and 23 companies, many of them registered in Central America, of operating an illegal sports bookmaking business that solicited more than $1 billion in bets.
The 95-page indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in Oklahoma City on March 20, accuses the defendants of operating from San Jose, Costa Rica, and Panama City to take bets almost exclusively from gamblers in the U.S.
The indictment says that since 2003 the operation known as Legendz Sports used the companies to operate as payment processors, launder gambling funds and make payouts to customers. It alleges a conspiracy and accuses the defendants of violating federal racketeering and money laundering statutes as well as operating an illegal gambling business.
The indictment also accuses the defendants of violating illegal gambling statutes in several states, including Oklahoma, California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, New York and Texas.
"Legendz Sports solicited millions of illegal bets totaling over $1 billion on sports and sporting events from gamblers in the United States," the indictment alleges. As part of the conspiracy, Legendz Sports operated Internet websites and telephone gambling services from facilities located in Panama, the indictment says.
U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats of Oklahoma City said the charges culminated a multiyear investigation by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service.
"The defendants cannot hide the allegedly illegal sports gambling operation behind corporate veils or state and international boundaries," Coats said.
The acting chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, Mythili Raman, said the government is determined to crack down on illegal online gambling by U.S. citizens, regardless of where the business operates or where the defendants live.
"These defendants allegedly participated in an illegal sports gambling business, lining their pockets with profits from over a billion dollars in illegal gambling proceeds," Raman said.
Among the individual defendants listed in the indictment is Bartice Alan King, 42, of Spring, Texas, who's accused of conspiring with others to operate gambling services that took wagers almost exclusively from U.S. gamblers.
The enterprise allegedly used bookies in the U.S. to illegally solicit and accept sports wagers as well as settle gambling debts. The 34 individual defendants were allegedly employees, members and associates of the Legendz Sports enterprise, the indictment says.
Bob Troester, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oklahoma City, said King remained at large Wednesday but that 22 other defendants including King's former wife, Serena Monique King, had been taken into custody.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering, up to 20 years for conspiring to commit money laundering, up to 10 years for money laundering and up to five years for operating an illegal gambling business.
In addition, the indictment seeks forfeiture of at least $1 billion in numerous assets including real estate, bank accounts, brokerage and investment accounts, certificates of deposit, IRAs, domain names, an aircraft, a gas lease and several vehicles.
Troester said the investigation is not related to illegal gambling charges against Teddy Mitchell, 58, who is awaiting trial on a federal indictment that accuses him of making millions of dollars by hosting illegal high-stakes poker games at his Oklahoma City home and by illegally taking bets on sporting events.
"This is a completely separate case," Troester said.