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April 17, 2012 - 2:58pm

BREAKING: Alleged bookies charged under NYS organized crime statute

posted by Howard B. Owens in crime.

Three men accused of illegally accepting bets, including two city firefighters, are being charged under NYS law of racketeering.

The "enterprise corruption" statute is similar to the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) law.

The Class B non-violent felony carries a possible minimum sentence of one to three years in prison and a maximum eight-and-a-third to 25 years. Probation without prison is not a sentencing option.

Gregory Phillips, Brian Bordinaro, both city firefighters, and  Lance Engel, a chef at the Western New York Veterans Home, appeared in Batavia City Court today to answer to the new charges, which also included promoting gambling, a Class E felony.

All three men entered not guilty pleas.

"My client entered a plea of not guilty and we certainly stand by that plea," said Engle's attorney, Joseph LaTona, outside the courthouse after the proceedings.

Their cases were bound over until Oct. 23, giving the District Attorney's Office time to consider whether to seek a grand jury indictment or take another course of action -- such as a possible plea deal.

All three men are out of jail on their own recognizance.

In February, they were arrested following an investigation by the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force, and charged with criminal possession of gambling records, a Class E felony. Philips was also charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, for allegedly possessing a small amount of cocaine.

Investigators claim the three men were conducting an illegal bookmaking operation that grossed more than $1 million in bets and generated more than $70,000 in profits. 

The trio's defense attorneys today were presented with what is known as "discovery" -- material that the DA believes substantiates the charges. In this case, each attorney walked out of the courtroom with paperwork nearly six inches high.

The material represented, according to Sgt. Steve Mullen of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, the fruits of his team's investigation, including phone records, text messages and other records collected so far.

There are still computer and mobile photo data to be compiled and analyzed, Mullen said, and any new evidence uncovered could potentially be turned over to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, who could consider additional charges.

According to article 460 of the NYS penal law, a person is guilty of enterprise corruption when the person has knowledge of a criminal enterprise, participates in and has an interest in (as in ownership) of that criminal enterprise and is guilty of at least two other felonies (not including conspiracy) associated with the criminal enterprise.

One of the key elements in a case like this that sets an illegal gambling operation apart from legal forms of gambling in New York is that bookmakers often extend credit to their customers, Mullen said.

"If you go to the Downs or buy lottery tickets, you're spending money you have in your pocket," Mullen said. "It can still effect your family in adverse ways by spending money that is dedicated, or could be better dedicated, to other necessities in the home. In (a bookmaking) case, you’re able to gamble and continue to gambling without having the money in your pocket.

"From what the records (in this case) show," Mullen added, "there are people who ended up thousands and thousands of dollars in debt."

Mullen acknowledged that there are people in the community who don't think the bookmaking laws should be enforced, but it's not his job to change the law, just enforce it.

"Certainly, if these guys did profit in excess of $70,000, like it’s alleged, then it means there’s some people who are out of a substantial sum of money," Mullen said.

PHOTOS: Top, Phillips and Engle arriving at the courthouse; inset, Mullen; below, LaTona holding an armload of "discovery" and very bottom, Phillips leaving court with his attorney.

Ron C Welker
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OMG!!!! Oh I didnt realize the consequences of ilegal gambling.

Howard B. Owens
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Betting is not illegal.

Marie Smith
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That is NYS for you, betting isn't illegal BUT it is illegal to take a bet and make money on it! This is RIDICULOUS!!!! Talk about blowing something out of proportion....

Cj Gorski
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Maybe Sgt. Steve Mullen and Sheriff Gary Maha lost some money to these guys.

everyone mad in here over this comment lolz

Mark Brudz
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First of all remember a few things here

1) The State and County are going to have to prove thier case. Bookmaking is far beyond just taking a bet or two and under a RICO, this would have to be an organized operation supported by records and such.

2) These guys were also accused of taking bets from people outside of work while on duty, now they are innocent till proven guilty but this accusation alone is serious.

3) Bookmaking also involves taking bets on credit, which is illegal even for the state, legally you can not even buy a lottery ticket with a credit card.

As for the law,( And this is just the gambling part, not the RICO)

§ 225.10 Promoting gambling in the first degree.
A person is guilty of promoting gambling in the first degree when he
knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity by:
1. Engaging in bookmaking to the extent that he receives or accepts in
any one day more than five bets totaling more than five thousand
dollars; or
2. Receiving, in connection with a lottery or policy scheme or
enterprise, (a) money or written records from a person other than a
player whose chances or plays are represented by such money or records,
or (b) more than five hundred dollars in any one day of money played in
such scheme or enterprise.
Promoting gambling in the first degree is a class E felony.

§ 225.20 Possession of gambling records in the first degree.
A person is guilty of possession of gambling records in the first
degree when, with knowledge of the contents thereof, he possesses any
writing, paper, instrument or article:
1. Of a kind commonly used in the operation or promotion of a
bookmaking scheme or enterprise, and constituting, reflecting or
representing more than five bets totaling more than five thousand
dollars; or
2. Of a kind commonly used in the operation, promotion or playing of a
lottery or policy scheme or enterprise, and constituting, reflecting or
representing more than five hundred plays or chances therein.
Possession of gambling records in the first degree is a class E
felony.

Bottom line, What these guys are acused of is far, very far beyond a few bets or a football pool. I wish no harm to anyone, I actually hope this is all a big mistake, but RICO charges would not have been filed without substantial evidence.

EDIT: I used RICO for the sake of less typing, the NYS Enterprise corruption is pretty much the same as RICO

Rich Richmond
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Well said, Mark.

While they are absolutely entitled, it might be wise at this juncture for them to quietly take a plea deal and spare their families the further shame and embarrassment of a publicized trial.

Mark Brudz
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Just a guess Richard, but one would think that the 6 inch thick discovery and the filing of Enterprise Corruption charges is just that, a nudge to force a Plea

Rich Richmond
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I’m inclined to agree, Mark. I’ll be very surprised if the case goes to trial.

Scott Birkby
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What a joke. New York State is one of the most corrupt operations going. The Democrats, Sheldon Silver, back room deals. Transparent as a blackout curtain. Looks like these poor fellows tried to "muscle in" on their operation. Bad idea. Worse than crossing the Gotti family. Well, at least it will help to fuel the states biggest industry. The prison system.

Mark Potwora
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Are they still on the city payroll.................

Frank Bartholomew
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I am totally surprised these guys weren't hit with federal charges of tax evasion. With the investigation ongoing, I'm sure the possibility still exists.

Phil Ricci
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Better question...why do these laws exist?

Mark Brudz
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Mark, under law, they are suspended with pay until the investigation is complete and then are entitled to a hearing.Civil service jobs operate under way diffetent rules than the private sector

Irene Will
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The article says "One of the key element in a case like this that sets a illegal gambling operation apart from legal forms of gambling in New York is that bookmakers often extend credit to their customers", Mullen said.

"If you go to the Downs or buy lottery tickets, you're spending money you have in your pocket," Mullen said. "It can still effect your family in adverse ways by spending money that is dedicated or could be better dedicated to other necessities in the home. In (a bookmaking) case, you’re able to gamble and continue to gambling without having the money in your pocket.

So the fact that you can go to an ATM at Batavia Downs and get money off a CREDIT CARD makes it OK for Batavia Downs - - because technically, the Downs isn't extending the credit - - the credit card company is - - but it ends up with the same result - you’re able to gamble and continue to gambling without having the money in your pocket. So how is gambling at the Downs any different ?????

Howard B. Owens
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That's easy, Irene, the Downs isn't the one extending the credit. That's a huge difference.

Speaking in general terms and not specifically about this case ...

There's all kinds of ways a person who lacks self-discipline regarding gambling can ruin their lives (getting money on credit, pay day advances, pawn shops, stealing and fencing goods, etc.), but the whole relationship with the person taking the bets and the person placing the bets changes once the person taking the bets is also extending credit.

When the bookmaking operation is extending credit, it's actively encouraging people to go into debt to take risks.

Certain gambling is legal in this state, and I believe it should legalized more broadly, but that doesn't mean certain activities, under current law, shouldn't be investigated and prosecuted.

One of the things I find ironic is people bitching about members of law enforcement pursuing this case, but can you imagine how upset people would be if it was known around town that a group of people on the taxpayer payroll were involved in a million dollar gambling operation and law enforcement did nothing about it. There would be howls over possible corruption and graft ... one of the things about being a cop, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

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