Rhode Island Officials Launch Raids on Two Different Illegal Gambling Rings, Nab 20 Suspected Criminals

Rhode Island State Police Raid Illegal Betting Dens

One illegal gambling investigation morphed into 3 separate criminal cases over 5 different cities.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin¬†and State Police held a press conference on Friday to announce the arrest of 20 people in an illegal gambling ring crackdown. Kilmartin described “large scale illegal bookmaking” by organized crimes. The State Police provided details of their raids, along with a single investigation which flowered into three separate cases.

The State Police arrested 17 men on Tuesday, charging them with conspiracy, bookmaking, and organized criminal gambling. Since then, 3 more people have been arrested in the dragnet, including 2 men and 1 woman.

Operation: Free Roll

The raids were termed “Operation Free Roll“, which targeted bookies who take wagers on sports contests. In the raids, police also confiscated large amounts of cash, as well as stacks of drugs.

Two locations were raided on Tuesday. One was The Cozy Grill restaurant in Warwick. The other was a beachside home in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Both are thought to have housed bookmaker operations, though the two appear to be independent of one another.

Cozy Grill Sports Betting Ring

The Cozy Grill is owned by Jason Pilderian, who is thought to be a key lynch pin in the operation — if not the bookie himself. At the press conference, police released names of other key figures in the Cozy Grill bookmaking operation: David Disano, Johnny Lubo, Mark Marinaro, Joseph Brunelle, Eric Glaude, and Mark Battista.

Many illegal bookmakers these days used online sportsbooks to launder money. Jason Pilderian is accused of using betcapri.com to accomodate the sports bets his gamblers made.

Second Illegal Bookmaking Operation

While investigating the Cozy Grill bookies, State Police learned about a second operation, which was run out of the beachouse in Narragansett. Officials say the second operation was run by two men: James Petrella and Timothy Moretti.

Several other men are accused of helping in the Narragansett illegal gambling ring, most likely as bet agents, numbers runners, and collectors. The men involved with Patrella and Moretti are said to be Louis Scaglione Jr., Joseph Capelli, Lewis Silveria, Christopher Costantino, Brian Cipolla, and Sean Furney. All have been charged as co-conspirators.

The Petrella-Moretti gambling ring used a different website to handle their illegal sports bets. This website is called VIPbettors.com. Both “Bet Capri” and “VIP Bettors” are websites hosted in Costa Rica, beyond US jurisdiction.

Gambling Websites Used

Col. Steven O’Donnell of the RI State Police characterized the gambling websites as a combination of money launderer and tax shelter. O’Donnell told the Rhode Island press. “Both these websites, BetCapri.com and VIPBettors.com are offshore gambling websites based in Panama and Costa Rica. There’s no taxes, its clandestine and we allege that these individuals made a lot of money in an illegal business.”

Thus, the men in the case are likely to have to answer questions from the Internal Revenue Service. If they took illegal bets, then it stands to reason they lied on their IRS tax forms about their income.

Zhen Wu Marijuana Ring

Wiretaps in the investigation appear to have uncovered a third illegal crime ring: this one organized by a man named Zhen Wu. The investigation showed that Zhen Wu was a drug dealer who was storing 300 pounds of marijuana in a storage facility in the town of Cranston.

Col. O’Donnell said of the Zhen Wu arrest and confiscation, “This over $1.5 million dollars of marijuana that didn’t make it to the streets.”

O’Donnell said investigations of illegal gambling operations inevitably leads to drugs.

He added, “The unintended consequences is something like this — where they use their illegal proceeds to get involved in another illicit activity: drugs.”

List of Items Confiscated

In all, at least 7 different locations in 5 different municipalities were raided this week. Other locations raided were the Portside Restaurant in Narraganset, as well as Gigi’s Pizzeria in Warwick. Besides the Cranston storage facility in Warwick, an undisclosed location in Scituate also was raided.

State Police confiscated a wide range of evidence in the case, while impounding a number of vehicles. The list of confiscated items includes 330 pounds of marijuana, books for the gambling operations, 11 smartphones, 10 desktop computers, 6 digital storing devices, 2 tabulators, 2 scales, and $311,596 in cash. Police also seized a 2015 Ford F-150 pickup, a 2015 Toyota Sienna minivan, and a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado pickup.