In the middle of the week, the US Department of Justice revealed that five individuals have recently faced criminal charges of participating in the operation of a long-established illegal gambling business that has been allegedly linked to the notorious Lucchese family in New York.
The country’s federal authorities outlined the aforementioned charges in an indictment that was officially unsealed in Brooklyn federal court. Four of the defendants were detained at their New York homes, while the fifth was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The US Department of Justice issued a news release to confirm that 57-year-old Anthony Villani, who was arrested for participating in the scheme, is a directed associate of the infamous New York mafia clan that has been known for its significant role in the city’s organized crime. Villani is charged with participation in dishonest and fraudulent business dealings, involving money laundering, illegal gambling, and attempted extortion. Allegedly, he is linked to a fraudulent online gambling enterprise called Rhino Sports which, according to the federal authorities, collected illegal sports wagers and generated millions in profits for no less than 15 years.
The online gambling platform used Costa Rica-based web hosting servers and was allegedly run under the protection of the Lucchese family. Reportedly, the website accepted between 400 and 1,300 wagers every week. According to the US Department of Justice, the gambling platform employed a large number of bookmakers to pay and collect winnings in cash.
A Large-Scale Illegal Gambling Scheme Used Costa Rica Web Hosting Servers
The rest of the people who were charged for being part of the scheme are 59-year-olds Louis Tucci Jr. and James Coumoutsos, 58-year-old Dennis Filizzola, and 44-year-old Michael Praino. Tucci Jr., Coumoutsos and Praino were also identified by their nicknames – “Tooch”, “Quick”, and “Platinum”, respectively.
Federal authorities revealed that Anthony Villani is accused of the oversight of what was described by the Department as a large-scale illegal scheme that was in charge of the business dealings of Rhino Sports. The defendant allegedly communicated with Filizzola and Tucci as runners, and at the same time used to employ members of notorious Italian-American crime families, including the prominent Lucchese family, to work as bookmakers.
Allegedly, 57-year-old Villani received over $1 million a year from the Rhino Sports website. At the time when his residences were searched as part of a probe held by federal agents in 2020, investigators recuperated more than $400,000 in cash, along with gambling ledgers and brass knuckles.
As part of the announcement of the US Department of Justice, US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement that the conduct demonstrated how members of the local mafia were still engaged in unlawful gambling operations and schemes involving money laundering that led to threats of violence against people who stand in the organization’s way. In addition, the illegal gambling scheme has resulted in millions of dollars brought as profits to the Lucchese family in New York. As explained by Mr. Breon, the charges faced by the five individuals came as a result of the Office’s continued commitment to eradicating the mafia from the city.
The contemporary La Cosa Nostra in New York refers to an organized crime syndicate involving several families linked to the Sicilian mafia. Last month, federal authorities arrested and charged nine people for their alleged connections to an illegal gambling circuit affiliated with the mafia.