U.S. indicts Internet gambling operators

The fugitive owners of a gambling Web site based on the Caribbean island of Antigua have laundered US$250 million in profits, according to charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.

WorldWide Telesports Inc. (WWTS) and its former owner, William Scott, and employee Jessica Davis have been charged with 12 counts of conspiracy, money laundering and failure to disclose foreign financial accounts, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Justice Department investigators said Scott and Davis are fugitives who have been on the run since being charged in a separate federal money laundering case in New York in March 1998.

In January 2003, Scott sold WWTS to Betcorp Ltd., in Melbourne, Australia, a publicly-traded company. Betcorp did not respond to requests for comment in time for this article.

According to Betcorp, WWTS still offers Internet, telephone and wireless wagering to customers worldwide. In 2003, it accepted more than $800 million in wagers and reporting earnings of $12.5 million. Over the company's lifetime, WWTS has paid out $6 billion to winning bettors, according to Betcorp.

According to the Justice Department charges, American sports fans used the WWTS website and toll-free numbers to bet on baseball, basketball, football, hockey and other sports. Between April 1998 and October 2004, WWTS made $250 million from those wagers.

Scott and Davis are charged with laundering that money through a series of shell corporations and foreign banks, and with violating the Wager Wire Act, which prohibits using the Internet, telephone and U.S. mail for interstate and foreign gambling.

Since filing the case on April 7, 2005, Justice Department investigators have been able to freeze $7 million of those funds after seizing an account at a bank in Guernsey, located off the coast of France.

According to the indictment, Scott founded WWTS in Antigua and Barbuda in 1995. He immediately began depositing the company's profits in foreign bank accounts, for $37 million in 1999 and $49 million in 2000.

He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2004 and moved from Ohio to his homes on the Caribbean islands of Antigua and St. Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles. Davis was a WWTS employee.

They kept the money in 11 accounts at banks scattered through Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Singapore, Canada, Australia and the Channel Islands. The indictment seeks to seize those accounts, as well as WWTS property, computers and control of the Web site.

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