Five charged with running online gambling outfit under umbrella of Lucchese Mafia organization


Five defendants, one of them being Lucchese crime family “soldier” Anthony Villani, were charged last week with operating an offshore gambling operation for sports bets for over 15 years.

The indictment, unsealed Wednesday, lists a sixth defendant, but all mentions of his name are redacted.

The business, Rhino Sports, ran from at least 2004 through December 2020. The website’s servers were hosted in Costa Rica, and was used by around 400-1,300 bettors each week.

Local bookmakers, including defendant Michael Praino, are accused of facilitating payoffs and collections for bets in cash. Mr. Villani made $1 million annually from the business, according to charging documents.

Law enforcement seized $407,000, ledgers, and brass knuckles from Mr. Villani in searches of one of his residences, authorities said.

Co-defendants Dennis Filizzola and Louis Tucci are accused of being runners assisting the operation. Mr. Filizzola and Mr. Villani have also been accused of using gambling proceeds to purchase money orders, disguised as rent payments to a property Mr. Villani owned.

Mr. Villani is also alleged to have extorted a man identified only as “John Doe” by authorities, telling him in 2020 that “I’m telling you right now, you don’t get this money – [expletive] run away.”

The fifth defendant, James Coumoutsos, is accused of meeting with Mr. Villani at a pizzeria in 2020 in order to discuss the Rhino Sports operation.

“Members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering and money-marking schemes that … resulted in millions of dollars in profits to the Lucchese crime family,” said Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Mr. Villani faces charges of “racketeering in connection with participation in various criminal schemes, including illegal gambling, money laundering and attempted extortion.”


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