In 2006, Plano police received a tip that a bookmaker there was illegally taking bets on pro and college sporting events. They began looking into the matter and had an undercover cop call the man up and put in one wager, then another. In relatively short order, Plano PD had plenty of evidence that the bookie was violating gambling laws.
By that point, however, they had realized that the man was just a small cog in an enormous multi-billion-dollar illegal gambling operation. According to court documents, the operation was headed by Albert Sidney Reed Jr., a 57-year-old from Southlake who operated about 25 Caribbean-based gambling websites that accepted wagers from bettors throughout the U.S.
The investigation wound up lasting five years and requiring help from more than a half dozen other local police departments and the criminal arm of the Internal Revenue Service. It climaxed over two days in March 2011, when law enforcement officers executed 32 federal search warrants at properties throughout North Texas, leading to the arrest and conviction of 18 people. And their operation was truly massive: $5.4 billion in wagers and $200 million in illegal earnings between January 2007 and February 2011, according to the feds.
All 18 defendants have entered guilty pleas, but the sentences that have been handed down so far have been remarkably light. Reed is the only one to get prison time, receiving a year and a day in federal lockup. The rest were given varying amounts of probation and community service. More than $10 million in cash and assets (Reed gave up several railroad tank cars and $11,000 in casino chips) has been forfeited to the federal government.
"Taking away the assets from these illegal organizations hits criminals where it hurts the most -- it deprives them of their profits," Madie Branch, acting head of the IRS's criminal arm, explained in a press release this morning. "Today, we are transferring those seized profits from the criminals and giving them back to the communities."
And by that, she means the $4.8 million in seized assets Plano PD is getting from the feds. They had a big check-passing ceremony today, meaning the bookies should probably go ahead and write that one off as a loss.