Legendz Online Gambling Probe Produces Charges Against 34

Legendz Sports employees, members and associates took part in an illegal online gambling business that drew more than $1 billion in bets, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

Thirty-four people and 23 businesses were named as defendants in the indictment returned on March 20 and unsealed today in Oklahoma City. Charges include racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and running an illegal gambling business.

“The defendants cannot hide the allegedly illegal sports gambling operation behind corporate veils or state and international boundaries,” U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats in Oklahoma City said in a statement announcing the charges.

Similar federal prosecutions have been mounted in New York in connection with the online gambling site Full Tilt Poker and in St. Louis over the former offshore sports gambling business Betonsports Plc.

Legendz founder Bartice A. “Luke” King, 42, of Spring, Texas, is accused of conspiring to run the Internet and phone gambling service first from San Jose, Costa Rica, and later from Panama City, Panama, according to the indictment.

The company took bets “almost exclusively” from U.S. gamblers and relied on bookmakers based in the U.S. to solicit and accept sport wagers as well as settle debts, Coats and acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mythili Raman said in the statement.

At Large

While 22 of the individual defendants have been arrested, King is still at large, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Troester said today in a phone interview.

Racketeering is punishable by as long as 20 years in prison. Money laundering carries a 10-year maximum, while operating an illegal gambling business has a top sentence of five years.

Full Tilt Poker founder Raymond Bitar, accused of using funds from online players to finance company operations and pay its owners, agreed to plead guilty under a deal that will let him avoid prison and obtain a needed heart transplant, his lawyer told a judge on April 8.

Betonsports founder Gary Kaplan received a 51-month prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to violate U.S. racketeering laws. He also forfeited $43.7 million.

The case is U.S. v. King, 13-cr-00063, U.S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City).