YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: They called it “Operation Back in the Game,” and it netted authorities 29 arrests, $800,000 in seized cash and the take-down of a illegal sports gambling ring, run by two geriatric ex-cons, that Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said took $50 million in wagers the past year.
Anthony Pintabona, 76, of Secaucus and 72-year-old Gary Latawiec of Clifton – both of whom have longtime purported underworld ties – headed the operation out of New Jersey and New York, Molinelli said.
Both were brought into court in Hackensack this afternoon and ordered held on $1 million bail each in the Bergen County Jail.
Also brought into court were two other men whom Molinelli identified as “mid-level managers” – Patrick Caporizzo, 65, of Toms River and James Roberts, 62, of Clifton. They were being held on $500,000 bail each.
“Did I hear $1 million? Is this a homicide case?” Latawiec’s attorney, Miles Feinstein asked.
“I believe that’s rhetorical,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor David Calviello responded. “I’m not going to answer it.”
As CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported earlier this afternoon, Latawiec once owned the Carousel Lounge in Hawthorne and spent time behind bars for running a gambling crew from prison in the mid- to late-1990s.
Before that, Bergen County investigators who busted Latawiec found that he moved in circles with various defendants with organized crime connections at locations in Fairview, Palisades Park and Ridgefield to North Bergen and Union City, court records show.
Pintabona was among several people arrested last year as part of the takedown of a Monmouth County-based gambling operation. He also was indicted in a similar ring, also out of Monmouth County, in 2008.
Also held on various bails or released pending court appearances were eight other Bergen County residents arrested in “Operatoin Back in the Game” (CLICK HERE for MUGSHOTS and information on all arrested).
Five of them are at least 60 years old:
Robert Norcia, 77, of North Arlington;
Nathan Howell, 71, Lyndhurst;
James Tsitsiragos, 64, Leonia;
Nikitas Logothetis, 61, Elmwood Park;
Frank Blasso, 60, Upper Saddle River;
Scott King, 53, Wyckoff;
Lawrence Annunziata, 50, Glen Rock;
Dominic Santaite, 34, of Washington Township.
The local ring took bets on horse racing, football, basketball, hockey, and baseball, Molinelli said this afternoon.
In February, his Special Investigation Squad began looking into illegal gambling and money laundering in and around Bergen County, the prosecutor said.
Search warrants were executed in Bergen, Passaic, Hudson and five other counties as part of the sweep, Molinelli said this afternoon.
Two vehicles were seized along with the cash, he said.
Molinelli said Caporizzo and Roberts had a network of operatives, or “agents,” who ran gambling packages for them, meeting with individual bettors to pay and collect. In turn, they got a commission, he said.
“The ring used non-traditional ‘wire rooms’ in the form of off-shore, Internet based gambling services-such as beteagle.com, 119green.net, betritz.com, playhere24/7.com, thewagerrplace.com, betcris.com, used by bettors and agents to actually place their wagers,” the prosecutor said.
Bettors, as well as agents, were given code names and passwords in an effort to avoid detection, Molinelli said.
Molinelli thanked several agencies that participated in “Operation Back in the Game”:
Bergen County Sheriff’s Office;
Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office;
Morris County Prosecutor’s Office;
Passaic Prosecutor’s Office;
Essex Prosecutor’s Office;
Union County Prosecutor’s Office;
Ocean Prosecutor’s Office;
Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office;
New York City Police Department;
Dozens of New Jersey police departments
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