Guilty plea may help bring down multi-million dollar gambling ring with ties to mob and Hells Angels

It all started with the raid of a massive Super Bowl party in Markham, Ontario back in 2013. The party was hosted by Platinum Sports Book, a lucrative betting operation that law enforcement had long suspected to have connections both to the Hells Angels and to the mafia. The lavish event had just gotten underway when police officers and SWAT members descended. Several arrests were made, with various charges ranging from engaging in a criminal organization to conspiracy and bookkeeping.

Platinum was both technologically sophisticated and incredibly well-organized. Their website was registered abroad and their computer servers are located in Costa Rica. Platinum’s betting procedures were also slightly different than average. First, patrons would be introduced to their agent, who doubled as their bookmaker. The bookie was responsible for setting up the customer’s online account and placing all of their bets. While the account and the placed bets were carried out online, the actual transactions would be completed in person. The patron would collect their winnings or pay their losses directly to their bookmaker.

The Super Bowl party was an annual event hosted by Platinum Sports Book and it is estimated to have cost the company at least $100,000. More than two thousand Platinum gamblers were invited to attend the event, which boasted catering, an open bar and several extravagant door prizes, including a jet ski and a motorcycle. While the $100,000 price tag of the lavish customer appreciation event may seem like a substantial expense, the truth is that the cost was negligible compared to the company’s profits.

An assortment of betting records spanning from 2009 to 2013 were seized and later audited. The financial examination of these records revealed that Platinum had grossed over 103 million dollars. Law enforcement officials recovered nearly $5 million in cash during the raid alone. Determining the financial structure of the operation was crucial for the investigation. Police wiretaps shed some light on the progression of funds through the company. Investigators determined that the operation’s finances were organized in a pyramid configuration.

The structure of the pyramid was fairly simple. At the base level were the thousands of bookmakers employed by Platinum. They were responsible for signing clients, distributing winnings and collecting on debts. The bookies and subagents made up the individual cells of the pyramid. From there, the money would rise to the top of the pyramid. Each individual cell was connected to the top of the structure, which came to be known as “the bank.”

With a better understanding of Platinum’s financial structure, investigators were able to begin connecting dots. Back in 2012, a man named Erwin Speckert was apprehended while boarding a bus to Vancouver. At the time, Speckert was carrying a backpack containing over a million dollars in cash. At the time, law enforcement officials were unable to definitively identify where the money came from. It was only recently that the cash could be conclusively tied to Platinum’s money laundering.

Gordon Baird was accused of running the online services for Platinum. Baird was charged with participation in a criminal organization, to which he pled guilty. Baird had no criminal record prior to his involvement with the illegal gambling ring. He was not involved in the top tier of the organization. Judge John McMahon took this information into consideration when he accepted Baird’s plea and delivered a conditional 18 month sentence.

Rob Barletta and Andrew Bielli further solidified long held suspicions of a connection between Platinum and the Hells Angels. Both men were linked to the Hells Angels, Barletta was even identified as the former president of an Ontario chapter. Both pled not guilty to charges of criminal bookmaking and possession of the proceeds of a crime. Platinum also has ties to the mafia, and several suspects have been charged with contributing to an activity of a criminal organization, among others.

Written by: Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson has been reporting for Blog.ca for more than 8 years. He studied journalism at UGC and has published two books on how journalism influences the world.

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