Illegal Sports Betting Ring Is Busted by Florida Department of Law Enforcement
A man from Naples, Florida has been arrested for running an illegal, nationwide gambling ring which used violent threats to get debtors to pay. Documents collected from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows the man is accursed of extortion, racketeering, and money laundering.
The man, Thomas Welch, 48, is said to be from Naples, Florida, but he was arrested in Poinciana Village south of Orlando. According to authorities, the man is said to have employed enforcers to collect money from gamblers who could not pay their debts. Thomas Welch is currently being held on $250,000 bond.
The arrest came after a year-long investigation by Florida authorities. Their investigation did not target Thomas Welch in the beginning. In fact, the investigation of Welch’s ring came about when the FDLE was investigating a gambling ring out of Costa Rica. While looking into the Costa Rica ring’s activities, an informant told the FDLE about Thomas Welch.
Owned a Gambling Website
According to investigators, Welch’s website, Alydar653.com, was used to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal sports betting money. These transfers were made using bank accounts he controlled, laundering cash through commercial banks.
Told Ancedotes about His Dog
Alydar653 would have been difficult to spot as an illegal gambling site, if law enforcement had not received a tip. The website contained stories about Welch’s time in the navy, including the number of submarines he served on while he was in the service. He also was found of posting stories about his dog.
One Enforcer Compared to Hannibal Lecter
Slowly, Thomas Welch’s network grew. He would recruit gamblers to serve as his agents, who were given instructions to solicit new sports bets. If the new customers did not pay their gambling debts, then the leader of the illegal gambling ring would send his enforcers to threaten violence on the debtors.
These men included a group of men from the Dunbar neighborhood of Fort Myers, along with what Thomas Welch called a “bad mo fo” named Tony from Atlanta. Welch described one such enforcer as a Hannibal Lecter type, telling at least one gambler “he will eat your face off”.
Informant Owed Welch $18,000
The informant in the case apparently owed Thomas Welch $18,000, because a different bookie did not pay the informant his winnings. The motive of the informant was not only to receive immunity, but to avoid threat, intimidation, and possible violence from the leader of the gambling ring.
Once they had a name, authorities began digging through Welch’s trash. They eventually found wire transfer slips and written ledgers. At this point, they decided to send in an undercover agent to make contact with the ringleader.
Agents Recorded Many Conversations
The agents met Welch in sports bars in Fort Myers and Naples. These agents wore audio recording devices during these meetings. The undercover agent began placing bets through the gambling ring.
During these recorded conversations, Welch told officers that he would recruit gamblers into his ring, and then recruit these people to become recruiters or, as he called it, “agents”. These people would in turn find new gamblers, thus increasing the size of the ring.
Moved to Florida to Avoid Greek and Italian Mobs
According to the transcripts, the ringleader got into the business in the 1990’s, when he was living in the Boston area. He worked with the Greek and Italian mafias in that city, but eventually racked up $2 million in gambling debts. That is what prompted him to move to South Florida. To avoid detection by law enforcement, Welch incrementally made small deposits in the Naples, Florida banks. He believed the wealth of the area would mask his activities.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were involved in the crime ring. The ringleader transferred $285,000 throughout 5 bank accounts in 2013 alone. He also claimed that gamblers owed him somewhere around $800,000 in unpaid debts. When the authorities finally moved last week, they had a year’s worth of evidence, much of its recorded in the alleged ringleader’s own voice.
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