The story of a mob-backed online sports book nearly came to a close in U.S. district court in New Jersey.

One of the men behind the sports book Beteagle.com was sentenced in Newark last week, and in a lot of ways the case sounds like a Mafia vs. the government tale, updated for the internet age. The sportsbook was based in Costa Rica, but allegedly run through New Jersey.

The mob goes online

The case comes ready-made with a villain with an Italian name. Joseph Graziano, a 78-year-old from Springfield, N.J., was apparently one of the ringleaders, according to a story at NJ.com about the case. Graziano was sentenced to 18 months in prison under a racketeering charge.

Joseph “Pepe” Lascala, a member of the Genovese crime family, is allegedly the head of the operation, according to the story; charges against him are still pending. The Genovese clan is one of the “Five Families” that run organized crime in New York City. Another man associated with the site, Dominick Barone, was sentenced to 18 months in June. All were arrested in 2012.

Frankie the Flea is gonna break your legs?

Some of the “agents” involved in the operation went by names that appear to come from a bad mob movie, like “Frankie the Flea,” “The worm,” and “Harpo.”

More from NJ.com:

The U.S. Attorney’s office said mob associates were given access to Beteagle and worked “sub-agents,” under them, each responsible for a group of bettors they called “the package.” But no money or credits were made or transferred through the website. Instead, winnings were paid out in person, and losses were collected directly. If a bettor failed to pay, prosecutors said threats would be made.

In one meeting captured on surveillance tape, one informant was told there were no escape routes.

“The only thing you can do is pay the money,” he was told, according to the 2012 criminal complaint. “These are gangsters.”

BetEagle gets a D+

Despite allegedly using intimidation tactics to get people to pay, the site still got a D+ from the website Sportsbookreview.com.

Apparently, this report wasn’t enough to warrant an F:

Players claim over $21,000 was stolen by rogue betting agents. BetEagle has no oversight of agents using its platform, and will not stand for player funds.

A story at Gambling 911 offered a glowing recommendation in 2011:

BetEAGLE.com is known to have a good reputation overall and has been around the industry for some time.

New Jersey targets illegal sports betting

A sportsbook run by another mob clan — the Lucchese crime family — was also shut down by New Jersey authorities. Some members of the family were sentenced last month.

That book took over $2 billion in sports bets in about a year, according to prosecutors.

At the same time, the state is fighting in federal court to legalize sports betting, after a law passed in 2014 allowing casinos and tracks to take bets. A verdict from the appeals court could come any day, and if New Jersey wins, regulated sports betting in the state would follow soon after.

Photo by Hudconja used under license CC BY-SA 3.0

Dustin Gouker

About

Aside from his role as editor at LegalSportsReport.com, Dustin Gouker writes extensively about the legal online gaming and US online poker industries, having played poker recreationally for his entire adult life. He has also covered sports for The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner, among others.