UPDATE: Our fully story for Wednesday's newspaper can be found here.
A federal grand jury indictment was unsealed in Baltimore today charging the founder and operators of the popular online betting site Bodog.com with money laundering, prosecutors announced.
The indictment charges former Canadian billionaire Calvin Ayre as well as James Philip, David Ferguson, and Derrick Maloney with conducting an illegal sports gambling business and conspiring to commit money laundering, according to a press release.
Federal authorities have seized Bodog's website domain name, officials said. Last year, the site stopped offering online access to United States residents, though it transitioned customers to a new site, Bovada.lv, according to reports. That site was still operational Tuesday.
“Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country,” U.S. AttorneyRod J. Rosensteinsaid in a statement. “Many of the harms that underlie gambling prohibitions are exacerbated when the enterprises operate over the internet without regulation.”
In May, prosecutors shut down 10 poker sites including Fulltiltpoker.com and Truepoker.com. The day after the indictments were unsealed, Bodog.com changed to a European domain — Bodog.eu — in an apparent attempt to avoid a crackdown by U.S. authorities, who have been formally investigating Bodog since 2006.
Ayre has been living in exile and had not been taken into custody on the charges. On his website, calvinayre.com, he denounced the charges: "I see this as abuse of the US criminal justice system for the commercial gain of large US corporations. It is clear that the online gaming industry is legal under international law and in the case of these documents is it also clear that the rule of law was not allowed to slow down a rush to try to win the war of public opinion," he said in a statement.
According to the indictment, an undercover Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent opened an account in June 2009 and made sports bets on Bodog.com, most recently in January 2012. The agent received winnings by check and cash.
Prosecutors say funds were moved from Bodog’s accounts located in Switzerland, England, Malta, Canada and elsewhere to pay winnings to gamblers, and to pay media brokers and advertisers in the U.S. The conspirators directed payment processors to send at least $100 million by wire and by check to gamblers located in Maryland and elsewhere, prosecutors said.
An ex-employee of Bodog laid out for investigators Bodog's structure, identifying top level officers and directors and outlining its operations in Canada and Costa Rica, an affidavit shows.
“Today’s indictment of Bodog Entertainment Group S.A. and its founder and operators sends a strong deterrent message to those that facilitate illegal online sports betting operations and commit crimes against our nation’s financial system,” said William Winter, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Baltimore. “The proceeds from illegal Internet gambling are sometimes used to fuel organized crime and support criminal activity. ICE HSI, together with our law enforcement partners, will disrupt and dismantle organizations that commit these crimes, regardless of their location, whether here in the United States or abroad.”
In 2008, federal authorities in Maryland filed money laundering charges against two men and seized $24 million from bank accounts that processed illegal gambling transactions in the U.S. on behalf of Bodog, the City Paper reported. The investigation into Bodog and Ayre stretches back to 2003, according to court documents.