Illegal gambling operation bust nets 5 arrests, allegedly operated by well-known NY crime family

DOJ alleges one suspect arrested is a 'Lucchese crime family solider'

Five people have been charged by federal authorities for allegedly operating an illegal gambling business with suspected ties to the Lucchese crime family over the course of at least 15 years.

The U.S. Department of Justice made the announcement Wednesday via press release.

An indictment unsealed in a Brooklyn federal court states four of the defendants were arrested at their residences in the New York area, and a fifth was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Justice Department alleges that one person arrested in the scheme, 57-year-old Anthony Villani, is a "Lucchese crime family solider."

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Five people have been charged with operating an illegal and long-established gambling business with suspected ties to the Lucchese crime family.

Five people have been charged with operating an illegal and long-established gambling business with suspected ties to the Lucchese crime family. (iStock)

"As alleged, this conduct demonstrates how members of La Cosa Nostra continue to engage in illegal gambling operations and money laundering money-marking schemes that lead to threats of violence against anyone who stands in their way and has resulted in millions of dollars in profits to the Lucchese crime family," stated United States Attorney Breon Peace. "These charges illustrate this Office’s continued commitment to rooting La Cosa Nostra out of New York." 

La Costa Nostra refers to an organized crime syndicate composed of several "families" known for their associations with the Sicilian mafia, CBS News reports. 

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James Coumoutsos, 59; Dennis Filizzola, 58; Michael Praino, 44; and Louis Tucci, Jr., 59, are the other four defendants in the scheme.

Villani is facing racketeering in connection with participation in various criminal schemes, including illegal gambling, money laundering and attempted extortion charges for his alleged connection to a fraudulent online gambling enterprise called Rhino Sports. 

Records obtained from the gambling business’s website indicated that Villani’s illegal gambling operation regularly took bets from between 400 and 1,300 bettors each week, most of whom were based in New York City and the metropolitan area. It was hosted online using offshore servers in Costa Rica and employed local bookmakers to pay and collect winnings in cash, the Justice Department said. 

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Villani’s bookmakers allegedly regularly included members and associates of the Lucchese crime family and other La Cosa Nostra families. As part of the scheme, Villani employed co-conspirators Tucci, Jr. and Filizzola, as runners to assist in operating the business. 

Villani is alleged to have received more than $1 million annually from the business.  During law enforcement searches related to this matter in December 2020, agents recovered over $407,000 in cash from one of Villani’s residences, as well as brass knuckles and gambling ledgers.