By Victoria Cavaliere
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Seventeen people in three states have been charged with operating an illegal sports gambling ring that utilized offshore websites to book more than $32 million in bets each year, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The suspects, spread between Nevada, California and New York, were charged in a 126-count indictment with enterprise corruption, money laundering, promoting gambling and conspiracy, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a press release.
Enterprise corruption is a violation of New York State’s Organized Crime Control Act, the release said.
"There are some who would argue that Internet gambling is a victimless crime. I very much disagree," Brown said.
According to the indictment by a Queens County grand jury, the gambling operation used offshore internet websites and 800 phone numbers to serve more than 2,000 active gamblers placing wagers on sports including football, basketball, baseball, hockey.
The accused allegedly accepted payments using credit cards and bank deposits ranging from $5,000 to $270,000, the press release said.
Fourteen of the defendants have been arrested, and three were still being sought, the Queen district attorney's office said. Three of the accused were based in New York.
The alleged ringleader of the gambling enterprise, Cyrus Irani, 37, "decided on wager limits, approved new accounts and all money collected eventually funneled up to him," the release said.
Irani was arrested at his home in Santa Clarita, California, on Wednesday KTLA-TV reported.
It was unclear when Irani would be arraigned or how he intended to plead. A phone call to his home was not answered.
The three suspects arrested in New York were arraigned in Queens Supreme Court and pleaded not guilty, the New York Times reported.
The indictments came after a 20-month-long investigation by federal and New York law enforcement.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)