NEW JERSEY – A Buffalo man accused of running a multibillion-dollar online gambling site for a New York City crime family posted $100,000 bail this week following a court appearance on money-laundering and illegal gambling charges.
Investigators with New Jersey’s Division of Criminal Justice accuse Brian R. Cohen, 62, of operating a “wire room” in Costa Rica, where the Lucchese crime family took in $2.2 billion in illegal bets on sporting events.
Cohen has residences in Buffalo and Costa Rica.
He was arrested May 16 on a return trip from Costa Rica at Buffalo Niagara International Airport by detectives from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Cohen allegedly ran the Lucchese family’s offshore gambling operations, including a Web site called http://www.bigactionsports.com. The wire room in San Jose, Costa Rica, had up to 20 people at a time taking bets by phone and processing wagers, according to Stephen J. Taylor, director of the Division of Criminal Justice.
Cohen appeared Thursday in New Jersey Superior Court in Morristown, where Judge Thomas V. Manahan ordered him to surrender his U. S. passport.
His arrest was “another significant milestone” in the prosecution of the Lucchese crime family, Taylor said.
“We have indicted the top echelon of this criminal organization in both New York and New Jersey, and we continue to charge key players in their multibillion- dollar gambling operation,” he said.
A New Jersey grand jury earlier returned indictments against 34 alleged Lucchese members and associates, including two of the family’s “ruling members,” on multiple counts including racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering.
The allegations against Cohen also will be presented to a grand jury.
If convicted, Cohen could face up to 10 years in state prison on the money-laundering charge and five years on the gambling charge.