January 14, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) A longtime fugitive and co-founder of an Antigua-based sports betting site returned to the United States to plead guilty Thursday to a gambling-related charge.

Haden Ware entered the plea to a conspiracy charge in Manhattan federal court, a day after arriving in New York City from Antigua.

Ware had been a fugitive since an indictment was returned in 2002, accusing him and two others of operating a sports betting business, World Sports Exchange, since at least 1996, when the business started, through 1998.

''I took wagers over the Internet and over interstate lines,'' Ware told U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV.

Authorities say federal sentencing guidelines call for six months to one year in prison, though Ware's lawyer will argue at a sentencing scheduled for May 9 that he should spend no time incarcerated.

Jim Henderson, a Santa Monica, California, attorney who represented Ware on Thursday, said his client was ''no big shot'' and it was obvious why he returned to the United States.

''Who wants to be an international fugitive?'' the lawyer asked.

A co-defendant, Jay Cohen, served over a year in prison after a federal appeals court in Manhattan rejected his claim that he did not break the law because his business was based in Antigua, where betting is legal.

The prosecution represented the first use of the U.S. Wire Wager Act.

Ware was reunited in the courtroom with his parents for the first time in two decades. He shook his father's hand and hugged his mother.

After he was released on $150,000 bail, he declined comment.

While a fugitive, Ware did several media interviews. He was quoted in a 2006 ESPN.com story as saying the company had grown to 100 employees worldwide and had a client base of about 250,000.

His bail conditions will permit him to visit his mother in San Francisco and his father in Boston.

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