Eighteen people, including three from Tarrant County, have pleaded guilty to running a multibillion-dollar Internet gambling operation, and the seized assets are being donated to police departments that helped crack the case, federal officials said Thursday.The first check, about $5 million, was awarded Thursday to the Plano Police Department by U.S. Attorney John M. Bales of the Eastern District of Texas and Madie Branch, acting special agent in charge for the Internal Revenue Service.“Taking away the assets from these illegal organizations hits criminals where it hurts the most – it deprives them of their profits,” Branch said. “Today, we are transferring those seized profits from the criminals and giving them back to the communities.”According to a news release from Bales’ office, other police agencies that participated in the investigation will receive some of the seized proceeds later. The agencies include Fort Worth, Arlington, Southlake and the Denton County district attorney’s office. The organization “generated in excess of $5.4 billion in gross wagers resulting in approximately $200 million in illegal earnings to the defendants from January 2007 to February 2011,” the news release said.Among the defendants is Albert Sydney Reed, Jr., 57, of Southlake, who was convicted of running an illegal gambling business and sentenced to a year and one day in federal prison.Two Fort Worth men were convicted. Robert Primm, 71, was convicted of failing to file a tax return and was sentenced to six months’ probation. William Michael Christopher, 56, pleaded guilty to running an illegal gambling business and is awaiting sentencing.Steven Arnold Bell, 58, of Arlington, was also convicted of running an illegal gambling business and was sentenced to two years on probation and six months of home detention.Plano police started the investigation in 2006 when an undercover detective developed a betting arrangement with a bookmaker.Eventually, the investigation led to the 18 conspirators who illegally accepted “wagers on college and professional sporting events through approximately 25 Internet websites,” the news release said. Investigators learned that the operation began in 2002 in North Texas and “had operated the offshore Internet sports book utilizing a company that was incorporated” in Curacao Netherlands Antilles.In March 2011, 32 federal search warrants were served at residences, offices and safe-deposit boxes belonging to defendants. Later, 47 seizure warrants were served seizing numerous bank and investment accounts, automobiles, businesses and real properties.
Bill Miller, 817-390-7684 Twitter: @Bill_MillerST