So you have heard the one about the high-stakes gambling ring, led by a former MLB baseball scout and a "professional poker player," whose recent busts came at the end of an investigation into an Internet-based sports-betting ring that's reported to have accepted some $3.3 billion worth of bets?
Well, that's what happened a little over a day ago when 27 individuals were arrested and three corporations were raided. Among the arrestees were former Washington Nationals baseball scout Frank Falzarano (released from his services by that club just two weeks ago), reported as being the leading bookie in a network encompassing some 2,000 bet-takers, and James Giordano, of Miami, who recently won a $1,000 buy-in tourney at the Bellagio (netting himself some $95,000) for the win. Giordano has been reported as the linchpin of the operation, which worked through a secure site called Playwithal.com that was nominally in St. Maarten, an island nation in the Caribbean, though it appears that this was extensively a U.S. operation, based largely in Queens (New York) and Florids.
Organizations such as Reuters immediately tied the bust into the recent passage of the UIGEA, as shown here:
"Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said these were the first arrests since
President George W. Bush signed legislation last month effectively banning Internet gambling by making it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites." This what happens when you grab news on a bust from a press release. Casino City Times, normally a better source for this type of report, ran the complete NYC release here. While this story includes the indirect UIGEA reference, it does so in its entirety, and it also includes all the information about the 33 counts rendered.
I was listening to FoxNews yesterday when they did a blurb on the story, and of course, they led with the gambling ban and then tied it back to specifics of the bust, a classic case of news re-filtering. (Remember, FoxNews is the network that pirated CNN's feed of the Challenger tragedy and tried to pass it off as their own, while the event was occurring. It's one of the reasons I watch the network, just to enjoy news badly done.)
But anyhow, in this case the indicted conspirators were charged with crimes not based upon the UIGEA, and this investigation had been going on for two years. The case's big break occurred when agents trailed Giordana to a Nassau, NY wedding, seeking information they hoped was on a laptop computer kept closely guarded by Giordano at almost all times. The agents, armed with a search warrant, took advantage of a three-hour period when Giordano left the laptop unguarded in a hotel room to make a copy of all information on the machine.
For Giordano's part, previous reports have him connected with two other online gambling operations that left gamblers in the lurch in previous scandals, and his brother, once a part of Giordano's operations, recently accused him of some sketchy practices in a feud aired publicly on a major sports-betting forum. Both Giordano and his brother were referred to via aliases, and the six-figure dispute leading to the falling-out has kept the brothers estranged. Giordano's brother was not arrested in the recent sweep.
A separate report on newsfactor.com offered the clearest insight into the properties seized during the sweep:
"Search warrants executed in several locations resulted in the seizure of gambling records, computers and hundreds of millions of dollars in property, some of it stashed in a secret room concealed by a bookshelf in the Manhattan home of one of the suspects.
The property includes four Manhattan condominiums, millions of dollars in cash, tens of thousands of dollars worth of casino chips from the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, jewelry, gold coins, and a football signed by the 1969 New York Jets following their Super Bowl victory. Also seized was original artwork by Peter Max and Salvador Dali."
Peter Max and Salvador Dali? By comparison, a raid on this scribe's apartment would net, among other valuable properties, a plastic "Bud Light" beer mug two-thirds filled with pocket change.
Then again, that likely beats a few years in the pen, making license plates and avoiding the shower.
Maybe that's the punchline to the joke, after all.