8 Vegas arrests among 25 in illegal sports book sting - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

8 Vegas arrests among 25 in illegal sports book sting

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The eight arrested in Las Vegas: (top l-r) Michael Colbert; David Paulk; Paul Sexton; Jerry Branca. (Bottom l-r) Kelli Barsel; Brandt England; Steven Diano. The eighth arrest, Ian Mandell, was hospitalized and booked "in absentia," Metro said. The eight arrested in Las Vegas: (top l-r) Michael Colbert; David Paulk; Paul Sexton; Jerry Branca. (Bottom l-r) Kelli Barsel; Brandt England; Steven Diano. The eighth arrest, Ian Mandell, was hospitalized and booked "in absentia," Metro said.
Michael Colbert was charged in connection to an illegal sports betting operation based in New York. (FOX5 FILE) Michael Colbert was charged in connection to an illegal sports betting operation based in New York. (FOX5 FILE)
An FBI indictment said owners of a trio of offshore sports booking web sites funneled money with agents in a number of states to run the operation. An FBI indictment said owners of a trio of offshore sports booking web sites funneled money with agents in a number of states to run the operation.
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

The Queens County, NY, district attorney's office revealed details Thursday of an alleged illegal sports betting operation that included the arrests of eight people in southern Nevada.

An indictment of 25 people nationwide shows the operation based in Queens and elsewhere involved owners of offshore sports betting websites that profited by more than $50 million over 18 months.

"One of the largest and most lucrative illegal sports betting enterprises that we've uncovered in recent years," said Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown during a news conference Thursday.

In the indictment, the DA's office said eight people from Nevada had roles in the operation that included bookmaking, money collecting and distributing and serving as intermediaries between bookmakers and bettors.

The investigation started in February 2011, and centers around four offshore gaming websites, including www.pinnaclesports.com, jazzsports.com, wager4u.com and playhere.ag.

Brown also refuted claims by some that offshore bookmaking is a victimless crime.

"Those who participate in these kinds of cases often use threats, intimidation and even physical force to collect their debts," Brown said.

The people who were charged in Nevada included 32-year-old Michael Colbert, who is the vice president of Cantor Gaming and sports book director at M Resort.

Brown said Colbert was one of five people to have served as money collectors and agents in the operation. The FBI also said these people were responsible for "settling up" with the bettors.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has not yet ruled out any involvement by Cantor Gaming, which operates several sports books in Nevada. The company has not made a public statement on the investigation.

Chief Enforcement Officer Jerry Markling told FOX5 he was approached in July 2011 to assist with the investigation but was unable to remove Colbert from his position at the M.

"In the end, it was felt that if we took Mr. Colbert out in any way shape or form, that would compromise the ongoing investigation in New York, so we had to balance that and determine we could not do that prematurely," Markling said.

Another Las Vegas man, 43-year-old Ian Mandell, was also charged as a money collector agent.

Other Las Vegas-based arrests included:

  • Kelly Barsel, 42
  • Jerald Branca, 67
  • Steven Diano, 48
  • Brandt England, 46, also noted for being owner of betting web site Pinnacle Sports
  • Joseph Paulk, 35
  • Paul Sexton, 29

Charges for those arrested include enterprise corruption, money laundering and conspiracy. All suspects face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Stay tuned to FOX5 for the latest on this developing story.

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