With computer servers in Costa Rica, toll-free phone lines, a smart-phone app for gamblers to bet on all major sporting events, the operation was technologically savvy, sophisticated and lucrative.
With computer servers in Costa Rica, toll-free phone lines, a smart-phone app for gamblers to bet on all major sporting events, Platinmum Sports Book was technologically savvy, sophisticated and lucrative. Image from Youtube.

QCOSTARICA – With computer servers in Costa Rica, in a Toronto (Canada) court, man pleaded guilty to running Internet services for an illegal sports betting ring that police say was linked to the Mafia and Hells Angels.

Gordon Baird, 59, admitted he was the administrator of the Platinum Sports Book, a sophisticated betting operation in Ontario.

Baird admitted that the Costa Rica operation that included computer servers, toll-free phone lines and a smartphone app for gamblers to bet on all major sporting events was “technologically savvy, sophisticated and lucrative”.

According to the National Post report, based on police wiretaps, it is estimated that Platinum employed hundreds of bookies servicing thousands of clients within the Toronto area. The bookies signed up their own clients, collected their debts and paid out their winnings on a weekly basis. The money flowed up the pyramid, court heard, with the top acting as “the bank.”

This was an extremely well-organized, professional criminal organization making millions of dollars

The National Post says a financial audit of seized betting records show that between 2009 and 2013 Platinum grossed more than $103 million. Police seized $4.6 million in cash during its probe, revealed when police raided a lavish Super Bowl party in Markham (north of Toronto) in 2013, a catered event with an open bar for 2,700 guests who vied for expensive door prizes including a motorcycle and Sea-Doo, said to have cost more than $100.000 dollars to run.

How the police see the Hells Angels-affiliated Platinum Sports betting ring. Image from Vice.com, March 2013
How the police see the Hells Angels-affiliated Platinum Sports betting ring. Image from Vice.com, March 2013

“The operation is best viewed as a highly sophisticated and organized pyramid-type structure. The pyramid structure involved a number of ‘cells’ consisting of bookies and their sub-agents signing up bettors/clients,” says an agreed statement of facts in Baird’s case. “These cells in turn are all connected to the top of the pyramid structure by those managing the organization.”

Since Baird was “not a part of the top” and with no criminal record and the guilty plea before trial, Judge John McMahon accepted Baird’s guilty plea to a charge of bookmaking as participation in a criminal organization and accepted a joint submission for an 18-month conditional sentence (to be served in Baird’s home) and a $400,000 fine. Baird handed over a cashier’s cheque for $50,000 and was given a year to pay the remainder.

If he defaults, McMahon warned Baird, he would be sentenced to three years in prison. Asked by McMahon if he was “pressured” by anyone — including co-accused, family or police — into taking the plea, Baird answered, “No, sir.”

rob-barletta
Rob Barletta

“He was not a controlling mind of the criminal organization but through his actions he contributed to the criminal organization,” McMahon said. “This was an extremely well-organized, professional criminal organization making millions of dollars. It could not have functioned without his technical expertise.”

Meanwhile, in another courtroom in the same Toronto courthouse, two co-accused in the case — Rob Barletta and Andrew Bielli, both linked to the Hells Angels with Barletta named as a former president of the London, Ont., chapter — pleaded not guilty to charges, including bookmaking for the benefit of a criminal organization and possession of the proceeds of crime.

Immediately after his case adjourned, Barletta walked over to Baird’s proceedings to watch the plea. Barletta, Bielli and several other accused still face trial.

Read the full story at the National Post.


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