COLONIE, N.Y. -- Behind the star athletes and cheering crowds of March Madness and countless other sporting events, police have uncovered the masterminds of a local gambling ring.
They say George Bedigian of Syracuse and Joseph Carucci led an internet sports betting ring that took in about $57 million since they started investigating a year and a half ago. The two men and 11 others were arrested Friday during “Operation: The Vig is Up.”
"This is probably the biggest gambling operation that we've seen, especially with our department, in the Capital District," said Albany County Sheriff James Campbell.
Through an informant and wiretaps, police learned that the group used the Costa Rica-based website Linewiz.com as a shell company for the gambling ring. After establishing a line of credit and an online identity, gamblers nationwide bet on everything from college hoops to ultimate fighting.
"They would have a number that was issued to them and like a nickname," said Albany County Sheriff's Department Investigator John Burke. "They would do that and they would make the bets over the computers."
"The bets were placed with them. But the money didn't go to them for the bet and the winning bets weren't paid from Costa Rica," said New York State Police Major Matt Renneman. "The transactions were all here."
Police say a building near the 76 Diner on Route 9 in Latham is where the gambling ring was headquartered. Carucci runs the building and they'd take bets and also run illegal card games.
"And a lot of contacts were made there. Probably a lot of payoffs were made there," said Burke.
Then police say money was transferred between the Albany and Syracuse based branches of the operation. They say a few more arrests are expected in this case and more rings could be brought down in this growing industry, if police can follow the money trail.
"It's very hard to work because the money and the information is going to South America someplace," said Burke.
If you're a little extra excited about March Madness because you're in the pool at work, it's a safe bet to say filling out those brackets won't get you busted.
"As long as all the money put into the pot is paid out, it's legal," said Renneman. "If somebody whose managing it in exchange for the labor they're managing it for takes five percent out, then it’s an illegal operation."
That's why the Average Joe has better odds of Cinderella crashing his bracket than the police arresting the guy running the office pool.