Five New York men, including three from Westchester County, have been accused of overseeing and operating a 15-year long, large-scale illegal, online gambling business with suspected ties to the Lucchese crime family, federal authorities announced.
An indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court on Wednesday, Sept. 14 charging them for their roles overseeing and operating a large-scale illegal, online gambling business under the protection of the Lucchese organized crime family.
The gambling business known as “Rhino Sports” utilized an offshore website and dozens of bookmakers in the New York area to take millions in illegal sports bets, the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York said.
Those charged were:
- Anthony Villani , age 57, of Elmsford
- Dennis Filizzola, age: 58, of Cortlandt Manor
- Louis Tucci Jr. (also known as “Tooch”), age 59, of Tuckahoe
- James Coumoutsos (also known as “Quick”), age 59, of the Bronx
- Michael Praino (also known as “Platinum”), age 44, of the Bronx
Villani, identified by the EDNY as a Luchese crime family solider, was arrested at his residence as were Filizzola, Tucci, and Coumoutsos. Michael Praino, identified as a bookmaker, was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“As alleged, this conduct demonstrates how members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering money-marking schemes that lead to threats of violence against anyone who stands in their way and has resulted in millions of dollars in profits to the Lucchese crime family,” stated US Attorney for the Eastern District, Breon Peace. “These charges illustrate this office’s continued commitment to rooting La Cosa Nostra out of New York.”
As alleged in the indictment and court filings:
- Villani oversaw the large-scale illegal gambling business called Rhino Sports, which was in continuous operation from at least 2004 through December 2020.
- During that period, the business hosted online using offshore servers in Costa Rica and employed local bookmakers to pay and collect winnings in cash.
- Records obtained from its website indicated that Villani’s illegal gambling operation regularly took bets from between 400 and 1,300 people each week, most of whom were based in New York City and the metropolitan area.
- As alleged, Villani’s bookmakers regularly included members and associates of the Lucchese crime family and other La Cosa Nostra families.
- As part of the scheme, Villani employed co-conspirators Tucci and Filizzola as runners to assist in operating the business.
- Villani is alleged to have received more than $1 million annually from the business.
- During law enforcement searches related to the investigation in December 2020, agents recovered over $407,000 in cash from one of Villani’s residences, as well as brass knuckles and gambling ledgers.
- As one part of the money laundering, Villani and Filizzola used gambling proceeds to purchase US Postal Service money orders disguised as rent payments to a property owned by Villani. Further, between April 2020 and October 2020,
- Villani is alleged to have attempted to extort an individual identified as John Doe in the indictment, including by telling John Doe: “I’m telling you right now, you don’t get this money – (expletive deleted) run away.”
The unsealed indictment charges Villani with racketeering in connection with participation in various criminal schemes, including illegal gambling, money laundering, and attempted extortion.
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