Three Ottawa men appeared in court Friday after police busted an illegal gambling website operation, which led to 54 charges against 21 Ottawa-area residents.

Project Amethyst, launched in September 2010 by the RCMP, targeted a website run out of Ottawa.

Ottawa police and Ontario Provincial Police were also involved in executing a series of search warrants in both Ottawa and Gatineau in July and September of this year.

The three men who appeared in court Friday were arrested Thursday night. They are Benedetto Manasseri, 49, Stephen Parrish, 45, and Gary Saikaley, 49.

Charges for illegal gambling, bookmaking

All three men are scheduled to be released on bail Sunday, pending the approval of sureties.

Saikaley faces 18 charges including conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, recording or registering bets or selling a pool, engaging in bookmaking or pool-selling or being in the business or occupation of betting, being involved in a criminal organization and other charges.

mi-ottawa-stephen-parrish

Stephen Parrish, the third suspect charged in the major illegal gambling bust in Ottawa Thursday, appeared in court this morning along with Manasseri and Saikaley. (Laurie Foster-MacLeod)

He has a prior conviction of bookmaking from 2006, and was forced to pay a fine of $22,500.

Manasseri is facing 18 charges including conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, committing extortion by threats, accusations, menaces or violence, and being involved in a criminal organization.

He has prior criminal convictions from the 1980s.

Parrish is facing 15 charges including recording or registering bets or selling a pool, wilfully and knowingly sending any message that conveys any information relating to bookmaking, pool-selling, betting or wagering, committing extortion by threats, accusations, menaces or violence.

CBC News has learned Parrish owns EZGO ATM Inc., which installs automated teller machines and provides service and support for those machines. Manasseri's daughter also works with Parrish at that company.

2 of 3 are website leaders

Police said two of the three are considered "leaders" in the large gaming operation, run through a website, which involved millions of dollars wagered on the Olympics, the NHL and NFL in the past six months. Two small marijuana grow-ops were also seized.

Supt. Sylvain Berthiaume, a criminal operation officer with the RCMP's organized crime and border integrity unit, said there were threats of violence but he would not say if those threats were related to the collection of gambling debts.

"The potential for violence in this case is evident," Berthiaume said.

The police investigation is ongoing.