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Brothers sentenced as ringleaders of Macho Sports gambling ring

Brothers sentenced as ringleaders of Macho Sports gambling ring
FBI agents raided the La Jolla home of Amir Mokayef as part of the investigation into the Macho Sports illegal gambling ring. Mokayef, accused of being the lead bookie in San Diego, has pleaded guilty, along with 17 others. (Fox-5 San Diego)

Two brothers were sentenced Friday to federal prison after admitting to being the ringleaders of an illegal international sports gambling operation that used violence to collect debts.

In San Diego federal court, District Judge Janis Sammartino sentenced Jan Harold Portocarrero, 42, to 18 months in prison and a $50,000 fine. Erik Portocarrero, 44, was sentenced to 22 months and a $50,000 fine. The two pleaded guilty to racketeering charges.

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The brothers' operation took millions of dollars in wagers in the past decade from gamblers in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas betting on professional and college sports, prosecutors said.

The two were ordered to forfeit $3-million worth of assets in the U.S. and Norway, including a $1.7-million check which they handed over in court.

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

The brothers moved from Los Angeles to Peru when federal investigators began probing their gambling operation.

"No longer can their global Macho Sports enterprise engage in violence, threats and intimidation to amass illegal profits," U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy said.

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

Arrested in Oslo, Norway, Erik Portocarrero waged an unsuccessful 22-month court battle to avoid extradition. The government of Norway ordered him extradited and he was taken to San Diego 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.

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.

In 2013, 18 people, 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 said. When they were arrested, nearly $12 million in illegal assets were seized.

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