Ontario police seize $1.6M in cash in new gaming raids
Eighteen people face charges following a series of raids in southern Ontario today, which police say are related to an illegal gaming operation that was previously targeted on Super Bowl Sunday.
York Regional Police Deputy Chief Bruce Herridge told a news conference Tuesday that search warrants were executed in Toronto, Barrie, in York Region and also in London.
The raids involved numerous Ontario police forces that have been working together on an ongoing investigation into Platinum Sports Book, an offshore gaming website that police allege is run by members of organized crime.
Herridge said Tuesday’s raids had targeted both personal residences and financial institutions.
"Approximately $1.6 million in cash, two handguns, a Taser, numerous computers, cellphones, betting lists, ledgers, bank statements, drafts and documents relating to criminal organizations were seized today," said Herridge, when detailing the haul that police claimed following the raids.
A Land Rover, a Porsche, a Cadillac and a pickup truck were also seized.
Herridge said police intend to release the full list of charges and the names of the accused on Wednesday.
He said some of the charges being laid include counts of participating or engaging in a criminal organization, bookmaking and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
Last month, police conducted at least 10 raids in southern Ontario, including at a Markham, Ont., banquet hall where hundreds of people were attending a Super Bowl party that police allege was organized by Platinum Sports Book.
Six people were charged in the Feb. 3 raids. More than $2.5 million in cash was seized in those initial raids.
Two of those same people face new charges stemming from the new wave of raids on Tuesday, Herridge said.
Police say the people arrested in the February raids are the alleged ringleaders of the group.
The CBC's Genevieve Tomney said the initial people who were arrested were then granted bail.
"It was a strategic move to try and bring in more of the people who may have been involved in all of this," she said.
In the days following those arrests, the Platinum Sports Book website came back online under a new internet address.
"Police say that’s part of the evidence that helped them make these arrests that they made overnight," Tomney said.
'Marriage' of Hells Angels, organized crime figures
At the same news conference Tuesday, OPP Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod said the ongoing investigation began in 2011, with investigators determining that the gambling ring was an alleged "marriage of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang and traditional organized crime figures."
Police have previously said there is a direct connection between Platinum and a botched gang hit in April 2004 that left a woman paralyzed. Five men pleaded guilty for their role in that shooting.
Herridge said money spent on illegal gambling ultimately "lines the pockets of organized crime."
In turn, he said organized crime groups use the money they make to fund ventures in the drug trade and other illegal activities.
The people participating in illegal gaming may not fully appreciate the risks they are facing, Herridge said.
"Gamblers are threatened, intimidated and extorted when organized crime expects payback," he said.
"This can often lead to extreme measures, including criminal acts taken by the gambler to meet that debt and ensure their own safety or that of their family."
With a report from the CBC's Genevieve Tomney