Brothers who led Macho Sports illegal gambling ring plead guilty

Two brothers who were the ringleaders of an international gambling operation called Macho Sports pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in San Diego.

Jan Harold Portocarrero, 42, and Erik Portocarrero, 44, agreed to forfeit nearly in cash, property and other valuables from the operation. The total forfeiture of all defendants in the case is nearly $12 million.


The brothers ran a "sophisticated international gambling criminal enterprise that preyed upon the gambling addiction of its customers," said FBI special agent Eric Birnbaum.

Also pleading guilty was Macho Sports bookmaker Joseph Barrios, 49, of Marina del Rey.

In San Diego, the lead bookie was Amir Mokayef, who was responsible for recruiting customers and other bookies, taking bets, and collecting from losers, according to the federal indictment. The FBI witnessed him beating up a losing gambler who did not pay his debt, prosecutors said.

Among the assets seized by the government as purchased with illegal gambling money were Mokayef's home in La Jolla and $65,000 in cash found by the FBI during a raid.

From a headquarters in Lima, Peru, the operation used the Internet and toll-free numbers to accept bets from high-rollers in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, according to court documents.

In 2013, 18 persons, including Mokayef, were indicted in the operation, which booked bets on NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball games. The ring began with the 1995 Super Bowl.

All 18 have now pleaded guilty. Prosecutors are still pursuing charges against Macho Sports International Corp., which is registered in Panama.

Barrios and Jan Portocarrero, who lives in Los Angeles, remain free on bail, awaiting sentencing. Each faces a possible 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to racketeering.

Erik Portocarrero's request that bond be set was denied by Magistrate Judge Ruben Brooks.

After a court battle, Erik Portocarrero was extradited from Norway. He was brought to San Diego on Wednesday by federal marshals.

Macho Sports sought to mask its customers' bets through the use of legitimate businesses, including a cash-checking business in Santa Monica, prosecutors said. Some of the money was sent to the Portocarreros' mother in Norway.

When gamblers were slow in paying their debts, Macho Sports used "intimidation, threats and violence," according to the 2013 indictment.