Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has broken up a crime ring led by three Hells Angels members that was responsible for running a string of illegal sports betting and online gaming websites.
Commissioner Thomas Carrique, Chief Superintendent Paul Beesley, and Stephane Bonin of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) confirmed that Project HOBART, a joint-forces OPP CIB-led probe, had led to a takedown at more than 50 locations across southern Ontario and Quebec.
The raids marked the culmination of an investigation that has spanned almost two years, resulting in 228 charges against 28 people, including three Hells Angels members, one Hells Angels prospect and a civil servant. The charges range from Commission of Offences for a Criminal Organization, Bookmaking, Firearms to Money Laundering and Fraud (tax evasion).
In addition, more than $12m in assets have been seized including sports cars, multiple properties, firearms and jewelry valued at approximately $300,000, $330,000 in precious metals, $1.2m in financial accounts and approximately $1.7m in cash.
The illegal online gaming enterprise was primarily controlled by three Hells Angels members with ties to traditional organized crime through the Figliomeni family. As the struggle to remain in control of this illegal profitable business intensified, so too did the slew of violent crimes including shootings, attempted murders and homicide.
The escalation in violent crimes, said the OPP, was the result of a power struggle to remain in control of a lucrative illegal online gaming market, which over five years has brought in an estimated $131m.
Said Carrique: “Cooperation among the professionals from many law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions is paramount to the continued success of our various undertakings. Project HOBART demonstrates the dedication and teamwork required to keep our communities safe. I am very proud of the investigative diligence and cooperation displayed by all of our partners to bring this aspect of the investigation to a conclusion. Because of you, our communities are safer.”
The illegal online gaming enterprise was advanced, said the OPP, organized and carefully planned. The server hosting the sites contained over five separate gaming websites associated with the Hells Angels alone. These websites allow gamblers to take credit limits as high as $20,000, but they expect debts and payouts to be settled weekly.
In addition to multiple websites, this group also had a gaming house in the Mississauga area which served as a cash collection and distribution point, as well as a place for patrons to engage in traditional games.