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Not guilty pleas entered in BetOnSports case

The former chief executive of one of the world’s largest online gambling companies, BetOnSports, will remain in federal custody after pleading not guilty Monday to charges of mail and wire fraud and racketeering.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The former chief executive of one of the world’s largest online gambling companies, BetOnSports, will remain in federal custody after pleading not guilty Monday to charges of mail and wire fraud and racketeering.

David Carruthers, 48, was one of several BetOnSports employees and associates named in a federal 22-count indictment who entered not guilty pleas. Neil Kaplan and Lori Kaplan Multz, the brother and sister of BetOnSports founder Gary Kaplan, were among them.

The government claims BetOnSports and its employees fraudulently took billions of dollars in wagers from U.S. residents by phone and over the Internet without paying excise taxes.

No one appeared on behalf of BetOnSports PLC, a British online gambling company.

U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said she wasn’t surprised.

“They have not had any regard for the law. And to not appear would be a further step along that same path,” she said.

Gary Kaplan is a former New York-area bookie now living in Costa Rica, authorities said. He remained at large despite the indictment.

Carruthers was transported to St. Louis from Dallas, according to court officials. He was arrested July 16 by federal agents at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport en route to Costa Rica, where the company has an office.

The Justice Department is seeking the forfeiture of $4.5 billion, cars and computers from the defendants.

BetOnSports fired Carruthers, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, last week and the company has agreed to a judge’s order to stop accepting U.S. bets. The company has also asked the London Stock Exchange to suspend trading of its shares.

In a separate courtroom Monday, U.S. District Carol Jackson extended a temporary restraining order until Aug. 14 to halt all BetOnSports business in the United States. Hanaway said her office was seeking to make that order indefinite.

Also entering not guilty pleas at Monday’s arraignments were BetOnSports employee Tim Brown; William Lenis, 52, who owned Mobile Promotions Inc., a Florida company that did promotions and marketing for BetOnSports; William Lenis’ son and daughter, Monica and William Luis Lenis, and his nephew, Manny Lenis, who worked for Mobile Promotions.

William Lenis also owned two other companies named in the indictments.

Attorney Paul D’Agrosa pleaded not guilty on behalf of DME Global Marketing, another one of the Lenis family companies, which does work for BetOnSports.

“BetOnSports and others who did not come here, maybe they are thumbing their nose at the government,” D’Agrosa told The Associated Press. “We do not think much of this case either.”

BetOnSports spokesman Keith Smith told industry news Web site that the company had not been served with legal papers as of Friday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Ann Medler and prosecutors said the company had been properly served. She set a hearing date of Aug. 21 for the defendants who appeared, but said the hearing may be postponed.

All of those who appeared at Monday’s arraignment are free on bond except Carruthers, who will remain in custody until his attorneys draft a new proposal for the conditions of his release. Prosecutors have asked that bond be denied, calling him a flight risk.

BetOnSports is one of the largest companies to date that the government has prosecuted for alleged illegal online gambling. In the fiscal year ended Feb. 5, BetOnSports said it handled $1.8 billion in bets.

Some federal authorities are cracking down on online gambling, which is estimated to be a $12 billion a year industry worldwide.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit credit cards and other payment forms from being used to settle Internet wagers. The legislation would leave state-run lotteries and horse racing alone and specifically says that most gambling is illegal online. The bill is awaiting Senate approval.

The arrests of the BetOnSports CEO sent a chill through the industry and an online-betting conference in Las Vegas was canceled earlier this month. However, the founder and chief executive of the popular Internet casino, Calvin Ayre, has said the indictment would not threaten his industry.