5Dimes Admits Illegal US Sports Betting Operation In $46 Million Settlement With Feds

Posted on September 30, 2020

5Dimes and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $46.8 million settlement of an investigation into illegal US sports betting operations, as well as money laundering and wire fraud.

The company announced an intent to enter the US sports betting market following the deal, although state regulators likely will balk at the long list of criminal activity detailed in the settlement.

5D Holdings and owner Laura Varela will forfeit the illegally obtained gambling proceeds as part of a settlement with the US Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania into the criminal investigation of 5Dimes’ offshore operations in Costa Rica.

“Beginning in at least 2011, 5Dimes accepted wagers from and made payouts to U.S. bettors, and transferred more than $46.8 million in proceeds earned from its illegal gambling activities in such a manner as to attempt to hide the nature, location, source, and control of the funds.”

5Dimes already incorporated 5D Americas LLC in Delaware. The agreement allows Varela the “use of her assets or the assets of the 5Dimes brand to explore future options, including, but not limited to, re-constituting the 5Dimes brand to be licensed to conduct legal, regulated gaming activities in the U.S. and internationally.”

Why is 5Dimes settling?

Varela is the widow of Sean “Tony” Creighton, who was found dead in Costa Rica after he was kidnapped and murdered in Sept. 2018. She’s a Costa Rican citizen.

The $46.8 million was traceable to transactions that violated multiple sections of Title 18 of the United States Code. The settlement agreement includes the fact that 5Dimes “acknowledged that those funds are the proceeds of various unlawful gambling-related offenses.”

Those include:

  • Wire fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Illegal transmission of gambling information

Not all cash

That $46.8 million seized wasn’t totally liquid as Creighton attempted to launder the funds multiple ways, according to the settlement.

The Department of Homeland Security Investigations seized $3.4 million in cash and other assets like a 1948 George Mikan rookie card he bought for more than $400,000 and $715,000 in rare coins.

In total, the assets forfeited were worth more than $26 million. Varela also agreed to forfeit $2 million seized by Costa Rican authorities and pay an additional $15 million.

Offshore betting seen as illegal by feds

The settlement and preceding investigation strike a blow to those sympathetic to the legality of the offshore industry within the United States. The federal government began investigating 5Dimes’ illegal acceptance of US-based bets years ago and imposed a massive fine for the company to avoid charges.

While the company paints the settlement as its pass to seek state-level licensure, the underlying agreement submarines the opinion of many who paint offshore operations as legal under US law.

The admission of ongoing violations of US law dating back at least a decade will make for a heavy discussion topic for state regulators.

What’s next for 5Dimes?

The next step will be trying to get 5Dimes licensed in New Jersey, Varela’s attorney Jeff Ifrah told the Wall Street Journal.

Varela will also have the support of the US Attorney’s Office throughout the process. It will “answer inquiries made by gaming regulators, potential investors, and/or financial institutions regarding her cooperation in EDPA’s investigation and lack of involvement in the operations of 5Dimes,” according to the settlement agreement.

That means whether Varela gives it a go with the brand or decides to sell, she’ll get the help of the authorities she aided throughout the investigation.

How gambling regulators will treat 5Dimes will be an interesting case study. Literally days ago it was still taking wagers from Americans illegally. And we know that the site has been sending at least some bettors to a site that runs with the same backend and lines.

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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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