A Nigerian convicted of running a sophisticated identity theft ring that stole the personal data of online gamblers registered with BetonSports was sentenced today to 34 months in prison.
Lanre Elekede, 32, is the lead defendant in the case in which he pleaded guilty to stealing the identity of at least 175 individuals. According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), a many of the victims were BetonSports customers.
The London-based gambling firm and several of its executives, including former CEO David Carruthers, is under U.S. federal indictment on numerous counts of racketeering, conspiracy and fraud. In November, the company agreed to a permanent injunction barring the company from doing business in the United States.
Elekede’s theft of BetonSports users’ personal data occurred in the weeks before the company became enmeshed in its legal battle with U.S. authorities.
A DoJ statement on Elekede’s conviction states, “A common thread linking a number of the victims whose identities were compromised was that they had engaged in sports-related gambling over the Internet with a…website known as BetonSports.com.”
The data from BetonSports included users’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and mother’s maiden names.
The DoJ said Elekede and his confederates used the stolen personal information to commit various forms of fraud, including making illegal purchases over the Internet. They also shared the stolen data over the Internet with other members of the ID theft ring.
BetonSports’ woes began when U.S. authorities arrested Carruthers in Fort Worth, Tex., while changing planes en route from London to Costa Rica, where the company then maintained several of its sites. According to the DoJ’s indictment, BetonSports in 2003 had 100,000 active players who placed 33 million wagers worth $1.6 billion through the company’s Web sites.
Carruthers, BetonSports and 10 others, including BetonSports founder Gary Kaplan were named in the DoJ indictments. The DoJ contends BetonSports violated U.S. law by taking sporting bets over the telephone and Internet. The government also claims BetonSports failed to pay excise taxes on more than $3.3 billion in wagers taken from U.S. gamblers.
Kaplan remains at large, variously reported in Spain, Israel, Costa Rica and Zimbabwe.
According to the DoJ, Kaplan launched his gambling business through a sports book in New York City in the early 1990s. After he was arrested on New York gambling charges in 1993, Kaplan moved his operation to Florida and finally offshore to Costa Rica. He sold his company in the early 2000s to the English company that took it public in 2004.
BetonSports saw its stock permanently suspended two days after Carruthers’ arrest.