QUEENS GRAND JURY INDICTS EIGHT - - INCLUDING PROFESSIONAL POKER PLAYER - -
FOR OPERATING MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR ILLEGAL SPORTS BETTING RING
Defendants Arrested In New York and Las Vegas;
Face Up To 25 Years In Prison On Enterprise Corruption Charges
April 5, 2016
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced that a Queens County grand jury has indicted eight individuals – including professional poker player Jay “Ghost” Sharon – on charges of operating a highly sophisticated illegal sports gambling enterprise located in Queens County and elsewhere that utilized gambling websites and toll-free numbers. The enterprise is alleged to have annually booked more than $3.5 million in bets and operated in New York and Las Vegas.
The defendants are variously charged in an 85-count indictment with enterprise corruption – a violation of New York State’s Organized Crime Control Act – as well as money laundering, promoting gambling and conspiracy. The defendants are now in custody in New York and Las Vegas, and are awaiting arraignment in Queens County Supreme Court. If convicted, the defendants each face up to 25 years in prison. District Attorney Brown said, “Individuals involved in such traditional criminal enterprises as bookmaking and gambling have attempted to use the anonymity of the Internet to hide their illegal activities. Over the last few years – working with our law enforcement colleagues – we have taken down a number of these operations and put them out of business. These cases, I believe, have put a significant dent in illegal gambling nationwide – and have saved individuals across the country millions of dollars in gambling losses.”
The investigation leading to today’s arrests began in December 2014 when the NYPD’s Organized Crime Investigation Division and the Waterfront Commission, in conjunction with the Queens County District Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau, developed information about a betting ring operating in Queens County and elsewhere. The investigation included physical surveillance, intelligence information and court-authorized electronic eavesdropping that intercepted thousands of hours of allegedly incriminating conversations.
The District Attorney identified the alleged boss of the gambling operation as Jay Sharon who is accused of acting as the bookmaker who controlled and oversaw the entire operation and profited from each criminal pursuit by the other defendants. Jonathan Cianciotto and Joshua Handler are alleged to have been Sharon’s master-agents who managed the agents and collected the winnings from the agents. Emilio Testa, Christopher Hansen and Frank Nista are alleged to have been agents of the enterprise and Vincent Zaccario and Gary Schreiber are alleged to have been sub-agents.
District Attorney Brown said that, according to the indictment, the defendants conspired to make money illegally through the operation of unlawful gambling that accepted bets on sporting events through wire rooms located either off-shore or in places where gambling on sports is legal. Bettors would place wagers by logging onto an Internet website or calling a toll-free number. It is additionally alleged that, as bookmaker of the enterprise, Sharon decided on wager limits, approved new accounts and all money collected eventually funneled up to him. Sharon allegedly met with his master-agents, Cianciotto and Handler, on a regular basis, to either receive money for the bettors’ losses or to pay out money (“settle up”) for the bettors’ winnings. Testa, Nista and Hansen’s alleged role in the enterprise was as agents whose job was to build a clientele of bettors who would regularly bet with the enterprise and who shared in the profits of their players’ losses each week or settled up with the bettors. It is alleged that the agents basically operated by placing bets with the wire room and facilitating the online betting by their clients on the illegal gambling website by using pre-arranged codes and passwords. Zaccario and Schreiber allegedly worked as sub-agents who, having clientele of their own, reported and paid money to an agent. Finally, it is alleged that Sharon, Cianciotto, Hansen and Testa knowingly laundered money by transporting large sums of money in Queens and elsewhere in New York to pay and collect on gambling wagers.
In addition to the arrests, court-authorized search warrants were executed at ten locations in Queens and Nassau Counties. At present, gambling records and gambling paraphernalia and more than $ 93,000 in cash has been seized by the New York City Police Department and the Waterfront Commission.
The investigation was conducted by NYPD Detectives Patrick Fogarty (lead detective), Charles Walsh, Scott Signorelli and Jeremy Natal, of Major Investigations; Sergeant Ray Almodovar and Jerry Garcia, Major Investigations Supervisors; Lieutenant Christopher Fasano, Commanding Officer of the Business Integrity Commission; Lieutenant Keith Loughran, Commanding Officer of the Major Investigations Section, Teams 2 and 4; Captain John A. Dusanenko, Commanding Officer of the Major Investigations Section; Inspector John M. Denesopolis, Jr., Commanding Officer of the Criminal Enterprise Investigations and under the overall supervision of Assistant Chief Brian McCarthy, Commanding Officer of the Criminal Enterprise Division, Chief of Detectives Robert K. Boyce and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. Also assisting in the investigation were Detective William McCabe, of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, and Detectives Katherine Jackson and Andrew Viola, of the Technical Assistance and Response Unit.
For the Waterfront Commission Detective Ralph Grasso, Sergeant William Kiely, Brooklyn Field Officer, Captain Jeffrey Heinssen, Commanding Officer of the Brooklyn Field Office, Chief Constantine Miniotis and Executive Director Walter Arsenault under the overall supervision of Commissioner Ronald Goldstock.
For the Queens District Attorney’s Office, the investigation was conducted by Detective Joseph Diehl under the supervision of Sergeant Alan S. Schwartz, and the overall supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator Robert J. Burke and Chief Investigator Franco Russo. District Attorney Brown thanked the Office of United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert L. Capers; Special Agent Jennifer McInerney, of the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General; Intelligent Analyst Gainsworth Scott, of the Office of the NY High Intensity Financial Crime Area; Homeland Security Investigations (El Dorado Task Force), Investigator William Gillespie, of the Office of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas; Supervisor Creighton Felt and Special Agent Anthony Vincent, of the Nevada Gaming Control Board; and Sergeant Darren Heiner, Detectives Joseph Gagliardi, Noel Roberts, Don Fieselman and Warren Gray, and Senior Analyst Troy Howe, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for their assistance during the investigation. Assistant District Attorneys Michelle W. Witten, Hana C. Kim and Bradley H. Chain, of the District Attorney’s Organized Crime and Rackets Bureau, are prosecuting the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Gerard A. Brave, Bureau Chief, Catherine C. Kane and Mary Lowenburg, Deputy Bureau Chiefs, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Linda M. Cantoni It should be noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Jay Sharon, 47, of Fresh Meadows, Queens, is charged with one count of enterprise corruption, 81 counts of first-degree promoting gambling, two counts of fourth-degree money laundering and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison
Christopher Hansen, 43, of Glen Oaks, Queens, is charged with one count of enterprise corruption, 53 counts of first degree promoting gambling, fourth-degree two counts of money laundering and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Frank Nista, 63, of Bayside, Queens, is charged with one count of enterprise corruption, 22 counts of first-degree Promoting gambling and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Emilio Testa, 50, of Las Vegas, Nevada, is charged with one count of enterprise corruption, eight counts of first-degree promoting gambling, fourth-degree two counts of money laundering and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Vincent Zaccario, 29, of Flushing, Queens, is charged with one count of enterprise corruption, 12 counts of first-degree promoting gambling and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Jonathan Cianciotto, 40, of Garden City, Long Island, is charged with one count of enterprise corruption, 71 counts of first-degree promoting gambling, two counts of fourth-degree money laundering and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Joshua Handler, 27, of Levittown, Long Island, is charged with one count of enterprise corruption, nine counts of first degree promoting gambling and one count of fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.