The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have broke up a crime ring operated by three members of Hells Angels who were responsible for running a series of illegal sports betting and websites for online gaming.
Commissioner Thomas Carrique, Chief Superintendent Paul Beesley, and Stephane Bonin of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) reported that the HOBART initiative, an OPP CIB-led joint venture, had culminated in a take-down at more than 50 locations across southern Ontario and Quebec.
The arrests marked the conclusion of a nearly two-year investigation that culminated in 228 charges against 28 men, including three members of Hells Angels, one possibility of Hells Angels, and a civil servant. The allegations range from a criminal organisation’s conduct of crimes, bookmaking, firearms and money laundering and theft (tax evasion).
Additionally, more than $12 million in assets were seized including sports cars, multiple properties, weapons, and jewellery estimated at about $300,000, $330,000 in precious metals, $1.2 million in financial accounts, and about $1.7 million in cash.
Through the Figliomeni family, the illegal online gaming company was run mainly by three members of Hells Angels with connexions to conventional organised crime. As the battle to remain in control of this illicit profitable business escalated, the carnage of violent crimes like assaults, attempted murders and assassination also increased.
The escalation of violent crimes, the OPP said, was the result of a power struggle to remain in control of a lucrative online gaming industry that has taken in an estimated $131 million over five years.
Said Carrique: “Cooperation among the professionals from many law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions is paramount to the continued success of our various undertakings. Project HOBART demonstrates the dedication and teamwork required to keep our communities safe. I am very proud of the investigative diligence and cooperation displayed by all of our partners to bring this aspect of the investigation to a conclusion. Because of you, our communities are safer.”
The business of illegal online gaming was advanced, the OPP said, coordinated and prepared carefully. There were more than five independent gaming websites affiliated with the Hells Angels alone on the domain hosting the sites. Such websites allow gamblers to take credit limits as high as $20,000, but they are expecting weekly settlement of debts and payouts.
This company also had a gaming house in the Mississauga region, in addition to multiple websites, which acted as a cash collection and distribution centre, as well as a place for patrons to participate in traditional games.