The New York City Police Department busted an illegal gambling scheme allegedly connected to one of New York’s notorious mafia families. Six people have been arrested and charged with running illegal gambling operations, racketeering, and money laundering.
The Illegal Gambling Scheme Brought Profits of Millions of Dollars
The FBI in collaboration with the New York police succeeded in uncovering a major illegal gambling scheme run by New York resident Anthony Villani, 57. Villani is allegedly a so-called “soldato” of the well-known New York mafia family Lucchese. A “soldato” is the first rank in the formal hierarchy of the US mafia.
Villani together with other associates operated and managed Rhino Sports, a major gambling business, which ran an offshore gambling website on servers in Costa Rica with a large number of bookmakers operating locally in New York. The bookmakers were responsible for collecting the bets in cash and then paying out any winnings.
The number of regular players on the website varied from 400 to 1,300 on a weekly basis with most of them residing in New York City.
Villani operated the business with the help of associates. Some of the bookmakers were part of the Lucchese family, however, other La Cosa Nostra families also took part.
The illegal gambling scheme was active from 2004 until December 2020. According to law enforcement officials’ estimations, Villani collected winnings of $1 million per year from the business.
During the arrest of Villani at his New York residence the police also confiscated money in cash of over $407,000. The other defendants arrested in New York were Villani’s partners Louis Tucci, Jr. aka ‘Tooch’, Dennis Filizzola, and James Coumoutsos aka ‘Quick’. The defendant Michael Praino aka ‘Platinum’ was taken by the police in Florida.
FBI Has Made Commitment to Root Out the Mafia In New York
Assistant director-in-charge at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), Michael Driscoll, commented on the Rhino Sports case: “Members of the mafia are not giving up the tried-and-true methods of criminal behavior, even in the face of the burgeoning world of legal gambling. As we allege, a Lucchese soldier and other family members ran an illegal gambling operation and offered their clientele the same twisted customer service: do what they say or face terrifying consequences. One thing these criminals can bet on – the FBI will continue our pursuit.”
Breon Peace, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, expressed his concern about the fact that La Cosa Nostra is still active in the gambling sector despite sports betting having been legalized in the state of New York. Gambling operations are often connected with money-laundering schemes as well. These activities bring in millions of dollars of illegitimate revenue to the member families.
Peace also commented that the New York police, FBI, and prosecutors have made a commitment to further clamp down on La Cosa Nostra until it is no longer present in New York.
He also used the occasion to express his gratitude to the New York City Police Department, New York State Police, and the Westchester County Police for bringing the operation to a successful resolution with the arrest of the defendants.