A Kew Gardens man was one of 17 individuals indicted Wednesday on charges of unlawfully operating a “highly sophisticated” online sports gambling enterprise which allegedly booked more than $32 million annually in bets, according to authorities.
Johnson Mathew, 31, of Metropolitan Avenue is alleged to have been an agent in the ring and was charged— as part of a 126-count indictment— with enterprise corruption, money laundering, promoting gambling and conspiracy.
The investigation leading to the arrests— which included physical surveillance, intelligence information and court-authorized electronic eavesdropping—began in 2014 when the NYPD’s Organized Crime Investigation Division, together with the Queens County District Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau, developed information about a betting ring operating in Queens County and elsewhere.
“The suspects in this case mistakenly believed this scheme would remain hidden by the anonymity of the Internet and a click of a mouse, but they were wrong,” NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, the 17 men and women are accused of conspiring to make money illegally through the operation of unlawful gambling that accepted bets on sporting events.
Allegedly, 37-year-old Cyrus Irani of California— who is accused of acting as the “bookmaker” and controlled and oversaw the entire operation— decided on wager limits, approved new accounts and all money collected was eventually directed to him.
The gambling operation— which used an 800 phone number and the off-shore website www.365Action.com— had more than 2,000 active bettors and allowed each to wager on professional and college basketball, football, hockey and baseball games, according to prosecutors.
Both the site and toll-free number were allegedly connected to wire rooms and payments were accepted using credit cards and bank deposits ranging from $5,000 to $270,000.
According to prosecutors, some of the proceeds were used to buy memorabilia. For example, during the investigation a call was intercepted in which a few of the accused talked about getting $10,000 to someone selling a classic Batman comic book.
“There are some who would argue that Internet gambling is a victimless crime. I very much disagree. Internet gambling has been compared by some to the crack cocaine epidemic of the late ’80s and early ’90s. It is highly addictive and easy to get hooked. It has been said of Internet gambling that you simply ‘click the mouse and lose your house.’ Once you start, you cannot stop,” Brown said.
Along with Irani, Clark Bruner, 56, of California is alleged to have been Irani’s second-in-command and was the administrator over the accounts, managed the 10 individuals who acted as agents and collected the winnings from them. Bruner’s sons Chris, 30, and Clark, 23, both of California, answered directly to their father and managed their own accounts, paid winners and collected debts from losers.
If convicted, each of the 17 individuals involved in this case— including Kew Gardens resident Johnson Mathew— face up to 25 years in prison