5 Charged with Operating Gambling Business

Luchese Crime Family Soldier and Five Others Charged in Connection with Operating Long-Running Illegal Gambling Business

Charges Against Luchese Crime Family Solider Anthony Villani Include Racketeering and Money Laundering for Operation That Brought Millions in Profits

(STL.News) Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, an indictment was unsealed charging six defendants for their roles overseeing and operating a large-scale illegal, online gambling business under the protection of the Luchese organized crime family. In operation for more than 15 years, the gambling business known as “Rhino Sports,” utilized an offshore website and dozens of bookmakers in the New York area to take millions in illegal sports bets.

Four of the defendants, Luchese crime family solider Anthony Villani and associates Louis Tucci, Jr., Dennis Filizzola and James Coumoutsos, were arrested at their residences in the New York area, and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon by United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann. A fifth defendant, bookmaker Michael Praino, was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida and will make his initial appearance tomorrow morning in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.

“As alleged, this conduct demonstrates how members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering money-marking schemes that lead to threats of violence against anyone who stands in their way and has resulted in millions of dollars in profits to the Luchese crime family,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “These charges illustrate this Office’s continued commitment to rooting La Cosa Nostra out of New York.”

Mr. Peace thanked the New York City Police Department, New York State Police, and the Westchester County Police for their assistance in the investigation.

“Members of the mafia are not giving up the tried and true methods of criminal behavior, even in the face of the burgeoning world of legal gambling. As we allege, a Luchese soldier and other family members ran an illegal gambling operation and offered their clientele the same twisted customer service: do what they say or face terrifying consequences. One thing these criminals can bet on – the FBI will continue our pursuit,” stated Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.

As alleged in the indictment and court filings, defendant Anthony Villani, an alleged Luchese solider, oversaw a large-scale illegal gambling business called Rhino Sports (the “Gambling Business”). The Gambling Business was in continuous operation from at least 2004 through December 2020.

During that period, the Gambling Business was hosted online using offshore servers in Costa Rica and employed local bookmakers to pay and collect winnings in cash. Records obtained from the Gambling Business’s website indicated that Villani’s illegal gambling operation regularly took bets from between 400 and 1,300 bettors each week, most of whom were based in New York City and the metropolitan area.

As alleged, Villani’s bookmakers regularly included members and associates of the Luchese crime family and other La Cosa Nostra families. As part of the scheme, Villani employed co-conspirators Louis Tucci, Jr. and Dennis Filizzola, as runners to assist in operating the business. Villani is alleged to have received more than $1 million annually from the business. During law enforcement searches related to this matter in December 2020, agents recovered over $407,000 in cash from one of Villani’s residences, as well as brass knuckles and gambling ledgers.

The unsealed indictment charges Villani with racketeering in connection with participation in various criminal schemes, including illegal gambling, money laundering and attempted extortion. As one part of the money laundering, Villani and co-defendant Filizzola used gambling proceeds to purchase U.S. Postal Service money orders disguised as rent payments to a property owned by Villani.

Further, between April 2020 and October 2020, Villani is alleged to have attempted to extort an individual identified as John Doe in the indictment, including by telling John Doe: “I’m telling you right now, you don’t get this money – [expletive] run away.”

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys James P. McDonald and Antoinette N. Rangel are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Claire S. Kedeshian is handling forfeiture in this case.

The Defendants:

ANTHONY VILLANI
Age: 57
Elmsford, NY

JAMES COUMOUTSOS (also known as “Quick”)
Age: 59
Bronx, NY

DENNIS FILIZZOLA
Age: 58
Cortlandt Manor, NY

MICHAEL PRAINO (also known as “Platinum”)
Age: 44
Bronx, NY

LOUIS TUCCI, JR. (also known as “Tooch”)
Age: 59
Tuckahoe, NY

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SOURCE: USDOJ.Today