Man admits to role in $103M illegal gambling ring allegedly linked to Mafia, Hells Angels

Adrian Humphreys | September 12, 2016 10:36 PM ET

TORONTO — The man accused of running Internet services for a $103-million illegal sports betting ring that police say was linked to the Mafia and the Hells Angels pleaded guilty Monday.

Gordon Baird, 59, admitted he was the administrator of the Platinum Sports Book, a sophisticated betting operation in Ontario that set up its computer servers in Costa Rica.

The police probe of Platinum was first revealed in spectacular fashion when officers raided a lavish Super Bowl party north of Toronto in 2013, a catered event with an open bar for 2,700 guests who vied for expensive door prizes including a motorcycle and Sea-Doo.

It was a party thrown annually by Platinum as a customer appreciation event. Court heard it cost more than $100,000 to run.

The cost, however, was a drop in the bucket of what money organizers were bringing in, court heard.

With computer servers in Costa Rica, toll-free phone lines, a smart-phone app for gamblers to bet on all major sporting events, the operation was technologically savvy, sophisticated and lucrative.

Based on police wiretaps, it is estimated that Platinum employed hundreds of bookies servicing thousands of clients within the Toronto area. The bookies signed up their own clients, collected their debts and paid out their winnings on a weekly basis. The money flowed up the pyramid, court heard, with the top acting as “the bank.”

A financial audit of seized betting records show that between 2009 and 2013 Platinum grossed more than $103 million. Police seized $4.6 million in cash during its probe.

In 2012, $1.3 million in cash was found in the backpack of Erwin Speckert as he boarded a bus from Winnipeg to Vancouver. The source of the money was never revealed, but Monday’s court proceedings confirmed it was Platinum money being couriered west. Speckert was sentenced last year to three years for money laundering.

“The operation is best viewed as a highly sophisticated and organized pyramid-type structure. The pyramid structure involved a number of ‘cells’ consisting of bookies and their sub-agents signing up bettors/clients,” says an agreed statement of facts in Baird’s case.

“These cells in turn are all connected to the top of the pyramid structure by those managing the organization.”

The top — which Baird was not a part of — was not discussed in his proceeding. At the time of arrests, the RCMP said Platinum Sports Book was linked to members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Mafia.

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