- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

3:35 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) - Prosecutors brought charges against 27 people in connection with a billion-dollar-a-year Internet sports gambling ring, including men identified by authorities as a professional baseball scout and a high-stakes poker player.

The charges were brought in connection with a site called Playwithal.com, run by the poker player, James Giordano, 52, of Pine Crest, Fla., Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said today.

Also charged was Frank Falzarano, 52, of Seaford, N.Y., identified by prosecutors as a scout for the Washington Nationals and a former scout for the San Francisco Giants. His alleged role in the operation was not immediately clear.

Search warrants executed in several locations resulted in the seizure of gambling records, computers and hundreds of millions of dollars in property.

The property includes four Manhattan condominiums, millions of dollars in cash, tens of thousands of dollars worth of casino chips from the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, art, jewelry, gold coins, and a football signed by the 1969 New York Jets following their Super Bowl victory.

The scheme involved placing sports bets through bookies via a secure Internet site. The bets were taken on all kinds of sports, including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, car racing, and golf.

The charges include enterprise corruption, money laundering and promoting gambling.

Police said arrests have been made in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Nevada.

Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for the Queens District Attorney, said the arrests by prosecutors and police in New York City represent the first time that Internet gambling charges have been brought since President Bush signed into law last month the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Ryan said “we have initiated a $500 million asset forfeiture case,” one of the largest in state history.

The charges come after a two-year international investigation that focused on Internet gambling.

Brown and Kelly had scheduled a news conference, at which seized cash and assets - including artwork, jewelry, gold coins and sports memorabilia - were to be displayed.

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