One-year jail term
A northern Illinois butcher received a one-year federal prison sentence on Monday, after pleading guilty earlier in 2020 to a single count of illegal bookmaking and the filing of a false tax return. The defendant, Domenic Poeta, also has to pay $1.4m worth of unpaid taxes to the federal government.
processed millions of dollars in sports wagers between 2014 and 2018
Poeta admitted through a plea agreement in August that he processed millions of dollars in sports wagers between 2014 and 2018 through Caribbean-based betting sites. He also owned up to making over $3.7m from 2012 until 2017, avoiding $1.4m in taxes owed.
During a videoconference hearing, US District Judge Matthew Kennelly pointed to the sheer size and duration of Poeta’s illegal operation. He added that federal prosecutors likely underestimated the true sum of money involved, which he described as “pretty breathtaking, quite honestly.”
Probation request denied
Prosecutors were seeking as many as three years in prison for the 63-year-old, referring to how his illegal sports betting business was victimizing addicted gamblers.
Poeta made an apology to the judge and sought probation, believing that the best way to serve his prison sentence would be by looking after his family and other people. The defendant’s attorney also claimed that his client’s age and health concerns meant he would be at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection while in prison. Judge Kennelly rejected the probation request in view of the scale of the illegal operation.
Because of the ongoing pandemic and rising coronavirus cases across the United States, however, Poeta won’t have to report to prison until May 29, 2021. The judge hopes the situation will have improved considerably by that stage.
The betting operation
During the case, Assistant US Attorney Patrick King recounted how Poeta allegedly collected bets at his butcher shop, the homes or workplaces of customers, and in public. Prosecutors outlined some specific cases of gamblers who were dealing with the defendant to place their sports wagers.
One person reportedly embezzled millions of dollars from his family’s restaurant operation to pay off a gambling debt, eventually leading to the loss of the business. Other gamblers got high-interest cash loans through credit cards to keep betting after building up significant debts.
also ran a lending operation that provided high-interest loans
To retain customers, Poeta also ran a lending operation that provided high-interest loans to those who owed him money. In May 2018, he disclosed to investigators that, in the past decade, he lent about $250,000 to “two degenerate gamblers who owned a restaurant” at a 20% interest rate.
Over the course of the five years outlined in the indictment, Poeta reported approximately $50,000 in taxable income from his Poeta’s Italian Food Mart business, only paying federal income taxes of about $7,000. In one year, he reported an income of lower than $12,000 when he could still purchase a Highland Park home worth $1.5m.
This is not the first time Poeta has faced illegal bookmaking allegations in a federal court. In 2008, a gambling addict who was running a $10m check-kiting scheme testified that he had placed hundreds of thousands worth of bets with Poeta in 2001 and 2002.
When providing testimony during the check-kiting case, Poeta mainly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination regarding any questions about his alleged bookmaking operation. He did not receive any criminal charges, but US District Judge Wayne Andersen ordered him to pay $848,197.