Government charges Gilford man is a kingpin of huge offshore sports betting operation; 'The Greek' turns himself in to authorities in Boston
Published DateGILFORD — Internet sites devoted to the sports gambling industry were afire Thursday with the news that Spiros "The Greek" Athanas is one of 34 people accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of operating an illegal, offshore bookmaking business that over the past decade has handled more than a billion dollars in action from U.S. bettors. Indictments were handed down by a grand jury in Oklahoma for racketeering, money laundering and operating an illegal gambling business.
Justice officials headlined a man from Spring, Texas — Bartice "Cool" King — in the Wednesday announcement of the indictments but in the betting world the focus was clearly on "The Greek", who turns out to be 53-year-old Spiros Athanasopolous of 176 Gunstock Hill Road in Gilford.
Assisted by local police, FBI agents were at Athanasopolous' house with arrest and search warrants on Wednesday. But he was not a home.
Special Agent Kiernan Ramsey of the FBI's Boston office said yesterday that Athanasopolous' wife and son were at the house when they arrived. They were able to get a phone number for their suspect and "convinced" him to turn himself in to authorities.
Ramsey said Athanasopolous came to the U.S. Courthouse in Boston on Thursday, accompanied by an attorney. He was charged and released.
Athanasopolous later appeared in U. D. District Court in Concord for a detention hearing but Ramsey said did not know the outcome of that proceeding.
Ramsey said the FBI spent all day searching Athanasopolous' home and indicated a number of items were seized.
One town resident told The Daily Sun that neighbors refer to the Athanasopolous' sprawling residence — assessed by the town at $1.7 million — as the "hacienda".
WagerMinds.com was reporting that Athanasopolous is "widely known throughout the offshore betting industry", principally as the founder of TheGreek.com, "one of the sharpest and most well-respected offshore bookmakers." The website noted that "The Greek" stopped accepting bets from U.S. customers nearly two years ago.
The government now charges that Athanasopolous has also been a partner with "Cool" King in a huge offshore betting company now based in Panama City, Panama. It wants to seize $1 billion in assets it claims are associated with the profits from Legends Sports (www.betlegends.eu), which Gambling911.com describes as a state-of-the-art three story facility in Panama City that employees more than 100 people.
The website reports that "offshore bookmaking businesses with exposure to credit betting in the U.S. have come under increasing fire from local law enforcement agencies leading to a monopoly effect in which a growing number of agents are becoming cooperative witnesses."
Jim Finch, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Oklahoma City added an explanation point: "Individuals cannot skirt the laws of the United States by setting up illegal Internet Gambling operations in a foreign country, while living in the United States and enjoying all the benefits of U.S. citizens."
Among the assets the government is attempting to seize as the alleged product of ill-gotten game are Athanasopolous' home in Gilford, a hanger at the Laconia Municipal Airport, the contents of two bank accounts at Bank of New Hampshire and two more at TD Bank.
The hanger also figures prominently in the government's charges against Athanasopolous for money laundering. It alleges that in 2009, he wrote a check for $180,000 to pay for the building. And that a year earlier, he used more than $300,000 of the money gained from the gambling operation in Panama to pay for home improvements.
Over a period of four years, the government says Athanasopolous transferred a total of $3.3 million from a bank account in Jamaica to his accounts in New Hampshire.
On the list of the 34 people indicted, Athanasopolous, King and 12 others are referred to as members of the "executive staff" of Legends Sports. Another group of individuals are grouped as "agents" and still others as "bookies".
The list includes a number of men with colorful nicknames, including "Wild Bill", "Frank the Bank", "Top Cat", "Big Dog" and "Bubbles".
The people charged face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering, up to 20 years for conspiracy to commit money laundering, up to 10 years for money laundering and up to five years for operating an illegal gambling business.