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It was not just another Thursday in the world of illegal sports betting and associated activities.
February 20, 2020 would be a day when some minor victories for regulated sports betting could be claimed. The ongoing covert nature of one investigation suggests more action could be on the horizon as well.
The first involved the brother of former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher named in an indictment that centered on an illegal sports betting ring operated in association with an offshore Costa Rican-based “Company A.”
The second involved a guilty plea from the defendant in the attempted match-fixing scheme in the federal court for the Eastern District of New York.
While the match-fixing news is not insignificant, the US sports betting world was most likely caught off-guard by a famous name appearing in an unsealed indictment in the Northern District of Illinois.
It was not Bears’ Hall of Famer Brian, but rather his brother Casey Urlacher, who also is a small-town mayor in Illinois. He was the eighth of 10 named defendants associated with an illegal betting ring.
According to the indictment, an unnamed company located in Costa Rica operated an online wagering platform called www.unclemicksports.com that enabled U.S.-based individuals to wager with a bookmaker in the U.S. via a website administered in Costa Rica.
In addition to charges brought pursuant to the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the indictment lists a number of state law violations as well and conspiracy charges.
It is alleged that the primary defendant, Vincent Delgiudice, aka “Uncle Mick,” operated a multi-million dollar illegal gambling business based in the greater Chicago area.
The illegal sportsbook accepted wagers from as many as approximately 1,000 gamblers on the outcome of sporting events include baseball, college and professional basketball, NFL and college football, and other professional and amateur sporting events.
The indictment alleges that in exchange for more than $10,000 a month, Company A provided Delgiudice with the website www.unclemicksports.com that he used to manage his bookmaking business.
Bettors were purportedly recruited, then provided with usernames and passwords where the bettors would place their bets. Despite the website, the indictment alleges that Delgiudice transacted almost entirely in cash via agents.
The indictment alleges that eight of the other defendants including Casey Urlacher were recruited and used as agents. The agents were compensated based on their recruited gamblers’ losses.
The indictment alleges that Delgiudice kept gambling records, cash, and gold bars at his home in Orland Park, Illinois. On occasion, agents who owed Delgiudice money would be instructed to make payments elsewhere, including for his children’s’ college tuition.
In addition to payments made directly to the alleged Uncle Mick, gamblers and agents were also purportedly directed to make payments via cashiers check to businesses controlled or managed by the anonymous Costa Rican company named in the indictment.
On other occasions, the principal of the operation would FedEx the cashiers checks down to Company A himself as payment for the Uncle Mick Sports site.
The so-called overt acts carried out by Urlacher appear to be fairly limited in comparison to Delgiudice, Principally, it is alleged that on or about December 16, 2018, Urlacher asked that a login and password be created for a new gambler.
That request set in motion an account being set up for Urlacher’s bettor to have access to an account that allowed a maximum bet of $500 and up to a maximum of $3,000 a week.
A little over a week later, Urlacher provided an envelope containing gambling debts to another co-defendant who delivered them Delgiudice.
On another occasion, Urlacher asked the site’s namesake to turn off a gambler’s account, and after receiving a wire for $3,000 that the bettor’s access be restored. Urlacher also made a payment of losses from gamblers to Delgiudice.
The acts by the Urlacher defendant were a small part of a larger conspiracy that appears, from the indictment, centered around unclemicksports.com.
Much of the indictment is focused on the activities of Delgiudice, but it is illustrative of the wide reach of federal conspiracy provisions as well as the Illegal Gambling Business Act.
There are a few indications that there could be something else on the horizon.
The first indication is the decision not to name “Company A.” This could indicate that there is an additional investigation underway; it also may not.
There were also multiple individuals identified by numbers that were not named, only listed as having an association with Company A. That also might indicate that there are other investigations ongoing.
Another aspect that may be worth considering is that on at least one occasion there is reference to telephone communications. The absence of a Wire Act count or counts in the indictment might indicate there was either insufficient confidence in obtaining a conviction for such a count for one reason or another, or that there is potential for more to come.
Back in October, the Department of Justice unsealed three indictments against several individuals alleged to be associated with organized crime. While many of the charges have little connection to sports betting.
One in particular implicated the defendant in a scheme to fix a college basketball game.
While details were scant in the indictment, we did learn that the attempt was unsuccessful. The defendant, Benjamin Bifalco, initially pled not guilty but on Thursday changed his plea to guilty.
Bifalco is set to be sentenced on June 16. ESPN reported that prosecutors have recommended a six-month prison sentence for Bifalco, with the statute allowing a sentence of up to five years.
It is worth noting that federal sentences require that prisoners serve 85% of their sentence.