A major online sports betting operation known as Legendz Sports, which allegedly took in more than $1 billion in illegal sports bets, has been busted, and dozens of individuals and related businesses have been indicted, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Government prosecutors said that a federal grand jury seated in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, returned indictments against 34 individuals associated with Legendz and 23 business entities that helped facilitate the operation.
The operation was first run out of Costa Rica, and then from Panama City, Panama, according to the indictment.
"Today's charges demonstrate that we are as determined as ever to hold accountable those involved in facilitating illegal online gambling by U.S. citizens, regardless of where the business operates, or where the defendants reside," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. Most of the gamblers who used the service were in the United States, authorities said.
U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats in Oklahoma City said the FBI and IRS had been working on the case for several years.
Authorities said 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 ten years for money laundering and up to five years for operating an illegal gambling business.
The chief organizer of the sports gambling operation is identified as Bartice "Luke" King, who opened MVP Sports in 2002 in San Jose, Costa Rica. The following year he moved the operation to Panama and renamed it Legendz, the indictment says. King, 46, is a legal resident of Spring, Texas.
Prosecutors said they will seek forfeiture of real estate, bank accounts, a Sabreliner aircraft, and a variety of financial instruments connected to the operation.