A Brooklyn-based illegal online gambling business that was allegedly under the protection of the Lucchese Crime Family offered bettors “twisted customer services,” prosecutors clained Wednesday. Their policy was, “Do what we say or face terrifying consequences.”
James “Quick” Coumoutsos, pictured, appears to have a quick finger sniff as he emerges from a courtroom in Brooklyn. A federal judge will ultimately determine whether they smell of crime. (Image: Daily Mail)
That’s according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. On Wednesday, it unsealed an indictment that charged five defendants for their roles in “Rhino Sports.”
This was a “price-per-head” bookmaking business, allegedly overseen by a reputed Lucchese soldier, the aptly named Anthony Villani, 57.
Villani has a history of gambling-related arrests dating back to 1988. In 2004, he went digital, according to the indictment.
Rhino Sports ran for 16 years until 2020, and was used by around 400 to 1,300 gamblers a week, most of whom were based in New York City.
What’s Price-Per-Head Bookmaking?
Illegal gambling and extortion are steady and reliable revenue generators for the New York Mafia. But in recent years, the Mob has moved its traditional street-corner bookmaking operations online.
The “price-per-head” bookmaking model typically involves agent-bookmakers who give customers usernames and passwords that let them access offshore websites where they can place bets.
No financial transactions are made online. But details of bets are stored and tracked on the site. Many of these offshore sites are based in Costa Rica, where they are legal, and this was the case with the Rhino Sports site.
Collections and payouts are made in person, by the agents. Indebted gamblers are often “persuaded” to borrow money at high interest from Mafia loan sharks to keep gambling.
Villani’s bookmaker-agents included members and associates of the Lucchese crime family and other La Cosa Nostra families, according to prosecutors.
Also named in the indictment are Louis “Tooch” Tucci, Jr., 59, and Dennis Filizzola, 58, who worked as agent “muscle,” collecting money from customers.
James “Quick” Coumoutsos, 59. and Michael “Platinum” Praino, 44, are described in court documents as “significant bookmakers and moneymakers for the business.”
In 2020, as the pandemic hit, the FBI wiretapped Villani. The reputed Lucchese made man was recorded discussing the idea od diversifying inro casino gaming instead of sports betting at a time when most sports were canceled.
Villani and his codefendants are charged with racketeering in connection with participation in various criminal schemes. These included illegal gambling, money laundering, and attempted extortion.
“As alleged, this conduct demonstrates how members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering money-marking schemes that lead to threats of violence against anyone who stands in their way and has resulted in millions of dollars in profits to the Luchese crime family,” stated US Attorney Breon Peace.
“These charges illustrate this Office’s continued commitment to rooting La Cosa Nostra out of New York,” he added.
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