A major illegal online gambling operation with links to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang has been busted by the Canadian province of Ontario.
On Thursday, OPP revealed details of a multi-jurisdictional takedown of a “sophisticated” offline and online gambling ring involving the Hells Angels. The OPP laid a combined 228 charges against 28 suspects following a probe it called Project Hobart.
Project Hobart got underway in January 2018 following an “escalation in violence” between rival gangs in Ontario and Quebec. Michel Deabaitu-Schulde, a Hells Angel member associated with the gambling operation, was murdered this March.
The “lucrative online and traditional gaming enterprise involving members of known organized crime groups” revolved around a number of password-protected online sportsbooks bearing the names The Ultimate Sportsbook, Titan Sportsbook, Paytowin Sportsbook, Privada Sportsbook and Players Sportsbook.
Police said these sites generated revenue of around $13 m for the gang in just the first half of 2019 and over $131 m in the five years that police believe the betting operation was ongoing. The ring also operated a “land-based gaming house” in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga.
Police staged a series of raids last week that resulted in the seizure of nine residential properties, 21 firearms, 18 vehicles, C$ 1.7 m in cash, C$ 1.2 m in financial accounts and C$ 320k worth of gold and silver coins and bars. The accused will make appearances in Ontario Superior Court over the next month.
The gambling ring was allegedly run by Robert Barletta, Craig McIlquham and Eugenio “Gino” Reda (not to be confused with the sports broadcaster of the same name). The ring reportedly had ties to Angelo Figliomeni, who was arrested in Ontario this July during a crackdown on a group tied to local representatives of Italy’s‘ Ndrangheta mafia clan.
Barletta was previously charged for his role in Platinum Sportsbook, another Hells Angels-run Costa Rica-based credit-betting ring that the OPP and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police disrupted in 2013. While that operation resulted in stiff jail sentences for some of the principals involved, charges against Barletta were eventually withdrawn, leading to him being nicknamed the ‘Teflon Biker.’ Ontario has a provincial gambling monopoly that offers parlay sports betting both online and via retail outlets, but single-game wagering remains technically off-limits in Canada despite renewed calls to follow the US lead and legalize the activity already.