4 charged in probe of gambling ring that had $1B in wagers

NEW YORK (AP) An internet bookmaking operation based in Costa Rica took in nearly a billion dollars in illegal wagers on NFL games last season alone, New York City prosecutors said Thursday.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson made the allegation while announcing corruption enterprise and other charges against four men from California and New York. A defense attorney called the case overblown.

According to court papers, the ring took bets on pro football, college sports, soccer and other athletic events from thousands of gamblers using various websites since April 2015. They say bets last season on pro football totaled $927 million.

The alleged ringleader, Gordon Mitchnick of Laverne, California, ran the operation out of a ''wire room'' in San Jose, Costa Rica, prosecutors said. He laundered some of the proceeds by buying 20 houses, they said.

Another California defendant was a designated cash ''runner'' who once carried $50,000 in a briefcase through U.S. airports, prosecutors said. More piles of cash were recovered from the safe deposit box of a Manhattan defendant, they said.

Mitchnick was still in custody Thursday afternoon after a judge set bail at $2 million. His attorney, Bruce Maffeo, accused prosecutors of exaggerating the allegations.

''This is a garden-variety gambling case on steroids,'' Maffeo said.

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