Rockland investigators said Thursday they have cracked an organized crime-run sports betting and loansharking operation after an 18-month probe that has led to three arrests and the seizure of nearly $400,000 cash, six cars, 18 weapons and the freezing of bank accounts containing about $3 million.
District Attorney Thomas Zugibe called the ring a highly-sophisticated operation that worked in Rockland and surrounding counties and booked millions of dollars in illegal bets on professional basketball, football, baseball, hockey and other sports events.
In announcing the results of "Operation Double Down," Zugibe called the investigation a major blow to organized crime in the Hudson Valley and he called the three arrests announced today the "tip of the iceberg."
Frank John Fea, 70, of 72 Lilline Lane, Upper Saddle River, N.J. Investigators described Fea as an underboss in the Genevese crime family. He was arrested at his $2.99 million home and is being held in the Bergen County jail on weapons charges.
Alfred Joseph Fea, 44, 1 Wilson Road, Middletown, N.Y. Police said he is Frank John Fea's son and was arrested at his home. He is free on $25,000 bail.
Tracey Fea, a/k/a Tracey Kosierowski, 40, of 1 Wilson Road, Middletown, N.Y. Alfred Joseph Fea's wife, she was also arrested at home and is free on $5,000 bail
Zugibe said the charges that each may face include:
Criminal Usury in the First Degree, a class "C" Felony
Money Laundering in the Fourth Degree, a class "E" Felony
Promoting Gambling in the First Degree, a class "E" Felony
Possessing Gambling Records in the First Degree, a Class "E" Felony
Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, a class "E" Felony
Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, a class "A" Misdemeanor
The investigation leading to the arrests began in late 2008 with information about low-level illegal gambing in North Rockland developed by the Rockland County Intelligence Center, according to Rockland County Sheriff's Department Captain John Schnitker, who is director of the intelligence center.
As the probe into illegal sports betting and loan sharking progressed, it extended beyond Rockland into neighboring counties, Zugibe said. The New York State Police, the New York State Organized Crime Task Force and the Bergen County Prosecutors Office joined the investigation, which led to the three arrests.
"Operation Double Down" included 11 early morning raids Wednesday that executed search warrants in Rockland, Orange, Ulster, the Bronx and Bergen. Later in the day, another search warrant got police access to a safe deposit box located at a undiclosed bank in Nanuet.
Zugibe said the father and son Feas used a network of individuals, cell phones and gaming web sites on the Internet to handle bets that amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. He said the Feas also engaged in loansharking by charging exhobitant and illegal interest rates on unpaid gambling debts owed to their organization.
"What you have seen today is only the tip of the iceberg," Zugibe said as he gathered with investigators and area police officials at his County Courthouse office in New City in front of two tables showing off stacks of money, guns, gambling machines and equipment seized in raids. "The best is yet to come."
Showing off an organizational chart of the alleged gambling and loansharking operations, Zugibe said Operation Double Down has identified other members of the ring and the investigation is continuing - with more charges and arrests expected.
"Some people may think that illegal gambling has been a victimless crime," Zugibe said. "But Illegal gambling has always been a moneymaker for organized crime because of the huge profits it generates. These illicit proceeds often fund other criminal activity, such as drug trafficking, prostitution, auto theft and insurance fraud. We believe these arrests will greatly deter those criminial activities in Rockland County and across the Tri-State area."
Rockland County Sheriff James Kralik agreed with Zugibe that all too often the public does not recognize the impact illegal gambling has on the community.
"There is no such thing as a friendly wager when organized crime is involved," said Kralik. "These three defendants, and anyone who takes part in sports betting and other illegal gambling, have blood on their hands."
Clarkstown Police Chief Peter Noonan said Operation Double Down is a prime example of Rockland police agencies working together. He explained that the Rockland County Intelligence Center is organized under the auspices of the Rockland County Police Chief's Association, and operated through the Sheriff's Department.
Noonan said the unit focuses on specialized law enforcement issues, such as terrorism, gang violence and organized crime. Through the center, Operation Double Down also included the District Attorney's Office, State Police, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, Haverstraw town police, Clarkstown police, Upper Saddle River, N.J., police, the Orange County Sheriff's Department, the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Secret Service.
Schnitker said the intellengce center includes only experienced law enforcement officers. In addition to members of the intellegence center, Schnitker credited Senior Assistant District Attorney Ameenah Karim for her work with investigators and obtain required search warrants.
The investigation include raids at the following locations:
A home at 36 East Railroad Ave., Garnerville.
A business at 36 East Railroad Ave., Garnerville.
19 Ridgefield Road, New City.
813 Havermeyer Ave., the Bronx.
1 Wilson Road, Middletown, N.Y.
107 S. Main St., Florida, N.Y.
1050 E. Route 211, Middletown, N.Y.
1235 Dolsontown Road, Middletown, N.Y.
1249 Dolsontown Road, Middletown, N.Y.
51 Allhusen Road, New Paltz, N.Y.
72 Lilline Lane, Upper Saddle River, N.J.
"The cooperation among law enforcement is exemplified by these raids," Kralik said. "Law enforcement has succeeded once again over organized crime."
In the operation, police seized a 2000 Ford F350 pick-up truck, a 1993 Mercedes Benz 500 SEL, a 2005 Hyundai Sonata, a 2007 Bentley, a 1998 Lincoln Navigator and a 2000 Mercedes Benz S500. Weapons seiezed include nine handguns, two assault-style rifles and a variety of other rifles and shotguns.
Police also seized a safe, a lockbox, 2 desktop computers, four laptop computers, $376,081.17 cash, nine Joker Poker machines, gambling records and numerous boxes of Poker chips. Although police confirmed that bank accounts with about $3 million have been frozen, they would not disclose the number of accounts or details about those accounts.