NEWS

Timing of Super Bowl bust no accident, police say

02/05/2013 09:07 EST | Updated 04/07/2013 05:12 EDT
Police say it was no coincidence they chose Super Bowl Sunday to launch a raid at a banquet hall north of Toronto that led to gambling charges against six people.

“Super Bowl day, over their calendar, this is their biggest single earning day,” said RCMP acting Supt. Keith Finn on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday.

“We knew if we took them down [on Sunday], that would be the biggest impact to them.”

The invitation-only Super Bowl party at Le Parc Banquet Hall in Markham, Ont., came to a sudden end Sunday evening when police tactical units arrived and made arrests before the big game reached halftime.

Police allege the party was arranged by the operators of the Platinum SB (sports betting) website.

The site is hosted in Costa Rica, and one regular user of the site told CBC News it's used to keep track of bets placed in the Greater Toronto Area.

Unlike other online sites, Platinum does not process credit card transactions, the regular user said. Instead, bookies visit their customers on a weekly basis, paying out winners and collecting money from those less lucky.

"[The website] creates a layer of anonymity for the people that are running this illicit gaming enterprise," said Finn. "It's also a way that they can register the bets so they know who to collect from."

Police say the website is part of a multi-million illegal sports betting operation run by elements of organized crime. More than $2.5 million in cash was seized at the banquet hall and at residences and storage lockers named in search warrants that formed part of the investigation.

Finn said some patrons at the banquet hall were busy trying to hide cash behind ceiling tiles as police arrived.

He said Sunday’s bust was the culmination of a two-year investigation into the website, which has since been shut down by police. The Super Bowl party was in its eighth year.

Gambling funds human trafficking, prostitution, police say

Finn said money made in sports gambling is often diverted into other illegal activities.

"It's used to fund human trafficking and prostitution," he said. "It's all about control."

Finn also said those behind illegal betting often use violence to collect from customers who fail to pay.

"It's the collecting and what they do with the money that is of greatest concern," he said.

Police say there is a direct connection between Platinum and a botched gang hit in April 2004 that left a woman paralyzed. Louise Russo was standing in line at a North York sandwich shop that was sprayed by bullets.

Police say Russo was an innocent victim. The target of the hit, according to police, was someone who owed money to the operators of the Platinum site.

Five men pleaded guilty for their role in the shooting.

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