Facing a maximum sentence of 20 years, ringleaders of Macho Sports global gambling ring, the Portocarrero brothers were each fined $50,000 and will serve less than two years in federal prison on racketeering and gambling charges.
Arrested in June 2013 along with 16 others, Erik Portocarrero, 44, and his brother Jan Harald Portocarrero, 42, plead guilty to the charges in May, and on Friday sentences were handed down in a federal court by District Judge Janis Sammartino. The masterminds of the online credit betting enterprise began the business two decades ago with the 1995 Super Bowl.
According to court documents, Macho Sports used legitimate business to mask wagers of its high-rolling clientele from all along the California coast. The outfit processed bets using toll-free numbers and the Internet while payments and collections were handled in person. Often, violence and intimidation were employed to collect from customers who were delinquent in their payments, according to the court.
The operation began in the Los Angeles area, but shortly after was relocated to Lima, Peru when their gambling activities were scrutinized by federal investigators. Some of the millions of dollars in profits the brothers made from illegal bets on the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball games were sent to their mother in Norway, which is where Erick was arrested after an unsuccessful 22-month extradition battle. In the custody of federal marshals he was taken back to San Diego where his brother Jan was detained.
The brother’s attorney, Jim Henderson, asked the court for leniency, reducing the pair’s crimes to just “one of those stupid guy things that guys do sometimes,” adding that using racketeering laws to pursue his clients was “overkill, “and that they were “as far from a hoodlum or racketeer as a person can be.” However, some say leniency is exactly what the brother’s received considering pre-sentencing recommendations of 33 months for Erik and 27 months for Jan, and the thousands of man-hours and hard work of the FBI and Department of Justice. In addition to the light sentences and fines, the brothers were ordered to hand over $3 million in assets obtained with proceeds of their illegal gambling money, as well as $1.7 million in cash.
Sentencing is pending for Amir Mokayef lead bookie in San Diego and Joseph Barrios in Los Angeles who both pleaded guilty. Mokayef’s duties included customer and bookie recruitment, debt collection, and taking bets. The San Diego bookie’s La Jolla home and $65,000 found during an FBI raid, were in addition to the approximately $12 million in assets forfeited by the brothers.
The Portocarrero brothers were ordered to report to prison on Aug. 31.