$40-Million-a-Year Bookie Ring Broken

A sophisticated bookmaking operation that used toll-free numbers to rake in at least $40 million in horse racing and sports bets last year was raided Saturday by Los Angeles County sheriff’s vice detectives.

Six people face charges of bookmaking, a felony that carries a maximum three- to-five year jail sentence upon conviction. Eight others were arrested previously in connection with the bookmaking scheme, sheriff’s deputies said.

The organization, which operated out of six fictitious businesses, was headquartered in an East Los Angeles building where officers recovered electronic gear used to record wagers on horse races and sporting events, Sheriff’s Deputy Van Mosley said.


Detectives also found a wireless transmitter concealed in a fountain pen that, when activated, shut off phone service into the office, Deputy Eric Smith said.

The operation used toll-free 800-prefix numbers to take bets from out of state and used a hook-up to forward incoming calls to locations known only to organization employees so the calls could not be traced, Smith said.

Arrested Saturday were Michael Rhodes, 28; Marisa Lankester 24; Steven Fox, 27; William Stambaugh, 31; Joseph Narullo, 49, and Tony Ballestrasse, 30.