posted on February 24, 2012 14:47
Sheriff's Department officials say Thursday's illegal sports booking arrests ended a three-year long gambling ring that raked in thousands of dollars – and lost a number of folks a lot of money.
"From those we've already interviewed, there's people who have lost $10,000 in a year," said Sergent Steven Mullen at a news conference Friday.
Sgt. Mullen is leading the investigation into piles of paperwork and a number of computer files, all confiscated in Task Force raids Thursday night. So far, it's unclear just how many people were clients of the booking operation.
But of the various bets he's seen, Sgt. Mullen says a considerable amount of cash was changing hands.
"There were some bets as low as $25," Mullen said, "and some bets up to $2,500 on one particular sporting event.
"That's not cumulative," he added. Right now, investigators don't know the scope of exactly how much money was involved over the three-year gambling ring.
What they do know is that Phillips, Bordinaro and Engel were profiting from their booking operation.
"They wouldn't be doing this if they weren't making some money," says Sheriff Gary Maha. It's that detail that makes the practice illegal: unregulated gambling in New York State is only allowed if no one takes home a profit.
WBTA News asked the sheriff to respond to various community outcries today that sports booking is a "victimless crime," in which no one suffers serious injury or personal loss.
"Talk to some of the wives and families of people losing thousands of dollars to the bookie," Maha responded.
"That (money) comes from somewhere," added Sgt. Mullen. "They're less able to provide for their families...it's an addiction, not unlike drugs."
The three men were released on their own recognizance after a bail hearing Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, the police investigation and a concurrent city investigation both continue. Sheriff's officials did not rule out the possibly of more arrests and charges in the case.
ORIGINAL REPORT (11:00am)
Two Batavia city firemen have been arrested on felony gambling charges for allegedly taking bets on sporting events. Some of the suspected book making allegedly occurred at the city fire station.
39-year-old Gregory Phillips of Belvedere Lane and 43-year-old Brian Bordinaro of Prospect Avenue – both city-employed firemen – have been arrested for possession of gambling records.
A third suspect was identified as 41-year-old Lance Engel of Wade Avenue.
Sheriff Gary Maha tells WBTA News all three were involved in suspected sports betting.
"The two firemen, Phillips and Bordinaro, were accepting cell phone calls where bets would be placed through them, while they were at the fire department," Maha says.
Phillips was arrested Thursday night while on-duty at the fire station. His fire station locker was searched.
Maha also tells WBTA News, the list of clients for the sports booking operation is extensive.
"We seized a number of gambling records, cell phones and computers," says Maha. "Those will all be analyzed, and then we'll know the true extent of this operation."
In a statement, Batavia City Manager Jason Molino confirmed both firemen have been suspended with pay pending further investigation.
Police said the arrests capped a six-month long investigation.
Photos: (top right) Gregory Phillips; (middle) Brian Bordinaro; (lower) Lance Engel