Russian Organize Crime Target NFL Superbowl in Multi-Billion Dollar Gambling SchemeSuper Bowl is more than a game. It's a game of money.
Mafia style threat------"Pay up or you will down."
By Clarence Walker, Investigative Reporter (Houston, Texas)
NFL Superbowl is the biggest, most lucrative sports-wagering event in sports history. Over $2 billion in bets (worldwide) will spend this year to determine which team becomes the best football players in the nation.
"Without question, gambling and the NFL go hand-in-hand", says Robert Walker (no relations to author). Walker serves as the Race and Sports book director at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Placing bets on the NFL, especially the super bowl is the most popular choice for gamblers in Las Vegas".
Undoubtedly placing bets on NFL games is so highly accepted even President Bush offered to be the bookmaker for the bet between Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino for 2004 super bowl. With billions at stake (legal& illegal) die-hard gamblers wants a piece of the action. They can barely wait for the payoffs. But on-line sports operators are worried about their biggest wagering day of the year( super bowl Sunday) might be their last day in business. Why? Lurking in cyberspace is a group of High-Tech gangsters waiting patiently to make a killing by unleashing a 'denial-of -service attacks' upon on-line sports betting that rakes in millions of dollars from Internet gamblers.
According to National and International law enforcement agencies, organize crime groups based in Russia, Eastern Europe, Canada and Great Britain are preparing, mafioso' style, to extort on-line gambling websites out of tons of money as the 2005 super bowl approaches on February 6th 2005---featuring the New England Patriot against Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville Florida.
"Russian crime groups , the FBI says, connected with professional computer hackers based in foreign countries extorts gambling websites out of millions of dollars by 'hacking' into websites and shutting down the operation". Such tactics prevents gamblers from wagering bets. Once the sites are inoperable the extortionist contacts the website owners by email demanding money to restore service. Afraid customers will place bets elsewhere with rival websites the owners or managers pays the ransom.
(for more information on Russian organize crime groups' read (Americanmafia.com)Russian mafia extorts gambling websites. - by Clarence Walker feature article # 270).
Ido Raviv, company manager at Netgame, who runs the Yahoops.com online sports book operation express his views. "I expect that on super bowl Sunday---you're going to see a lots of sports betting down. I know it for a fact. People are scared".
Computer extortion by organize crime groups and professional 'hackers' has become a multi-billion dollar extortion racket, says technology expert-investigators. These specialized group of criminals is more dangerous than traditional mafia type guys because they hide behind a computer screen from anywhere on the planet. Nobody sees them-----nobody touch them. But their online presence is awesome.
On-line sports parl;ors, sports books and hundreds of gambling websites have suffered what experts call the (DDOS) 'denial-of-sevice' attacks for years. Recent attacks forced websites offline for days or weeks. Other sites were forced to pay protection money to keep their gambling operations online.
"This is almost identical to a mafia protection racket", said Dave Matthews, site administrator of Las Vegas adviser, an online company, serving the gaming industry(read www. lasvegasadvisor.com) "It's the same as going into a store and say, 'pay me so your store won't burn down for a year. It's just more high-tech".
Now as the (2005) Superbowl approach, experts predicts, the hi-tech mafioso' are turning up the heat in preparation for the NFL's biggest game of the season. And for good sinister reasons. Consider these figures:
Gambling experts predicts more than $100 million will be legally bet at Nevada casinos between the Patriots and Eagles but that's a fraction of the estimated $4 billion waged illegally through bookmakers, online gambling sites and other forms of electronic communications. Another aspect of gambling is the amount of money legally betted on sports in Nevada which barely compare with the amount bet illegally in the other 49 states. Though exact figures vary; in a report requested by U.S. congress in 1999, the National Gambling Commission estimated illegal sports betting generates around $80 billion; half of that figure betted on football games.
According to Nevada Gaming Commission, visitors to the State's casinos bet $1.87 billion on sports during the 2002-03 fiscal year. Bets on football games accounted for $800 million, or 44.3 percent of that total.
High-Tech Gangsters 'shoots' on site...... A 'Live' Shakedown
Here is the low down on the extortion operation. As computer banks whirred away, processing thousands of bets on the Cowboys, Patriots and the Buckeyes, suddenly, a flood of incoming messages attacked the computers, reducing traffic to a crawl. Thereafter, the manager of Betcris.com, Mick Richardson, received a threatening e-mail. Speaking in broken english, the message was vividly clear: "What you'd experienced was a mere taste of a forthcoming 'denial-of-service attack. The caller told Richardson, "if you want your computers to stay up and running through the football season, wire $40,000.00 to 10 different accounts in Eastern Europe. Richardson, who refused to pay, struggled for three weeks to combat the hackers demand. "They'd knock me down for a weekend, let me up on Monday, then knock me down on Wednesday". While Richardson played hard ball other online casinos in Costa Rica, the Carribbean, and Britain opted to pay up to prevent losing customers.
"We had to pay it", explains Kevin Martin, manager of eHorse.com, a Costa Rican operation that wired $30,000,00 to extortionists.
For a gambling website, a shutdown by computer hackers before the Super Bowl or the Kentucky Derby can spell disaster in lost revenue, angry customers, albeit, a bad reputation.Each site has a high period of vulnerability and gambling executives say the extortonists play this opportunity like a fiddle. Example: Cyber-extortonists hammered American -oriented casinos during football season last year and before, then hit horse bookmakers just as Smarty Jones bid' for the Triple Crown at the Belmont stakes, increasing heavy attacks on European sites during (2004) soccer championship in Portugal. They made 'millions' within hours. And nobody could touch them.
Extortonists disabled these reputable sites:(1) bluegrasssports.com (2) betcasade.com (3) pinnaclesports.com (4) Caribsports.com (5) vipsports.com (6) betgameday.com
Jeff Weber, who writes an online news letter(www.alltopsportsbooks.com) estimated that an outage for hours is costly. "That's $500.000.00 to $1million dollars worth of action wiped out in in one shot" Weber told Cnn.com. A copy of an e-mail extortion threat sent to websites demanded $15,000.00 for six months of protection. "If you wait to make a deal with us when the attacks start, it will cost you $25,000.00 for six months protection, lost revenues and your site will stay down until the $25,000.00 is received", the threat said.
Hi-tech investigators located in foreign countries and FBI have traced many cases directly to no other than----the Russian mafia in St. Petersburg. Similar cases has been also traced to organize crime groups and even to one-man' operations in different parts of Canada, North Korea, Hong Kong and throughout the United Kingdom.
"We have seen 'hits' around the world", explains Paul Lawrence, the Europe and Asia manager for Top Layer, a U.S. company that provides protection against(DDOS) attacks.
"They find a specific type of company, like online gambling. Geography is no barrier to them and they work their way around the world, picking people off quite happily".
Online Casinos ...Too Weak ... To Fight?
On-line gambling is the wild west of the gaming world. It is a multi-billion dollars industry. Some sites earns over $3 billion a year. Here's the downside. Unlike Provincial or State lotteries and government regulated casinos----online gambling is unregulated, in fact, illegal in the U.S. Under 1961 wagering act it is illegal for Americans to place bets for monetary gain over wire transfer. Operations like online gambling are vulnerable for 'shakedown' and organize crime groups acknowledge that most online casinos(owned by american entrepreneur's) are illegal,raking in millions of dollars in bets wagered on the Internet deemed illegal by U.S. government. Like a vicious animal feasting on prey the hi-tech extortion gangsters exploit the casinos weaknesses. Because most casinos and online sports sites are located outside U.S. jurisdiction the companies have very limited recourse against the extortion attempts.
"Do you think Attorney General John Ashcroft will come to the aid of gambling operations being attacked by computer extortionists", Dave Matthews told Infoworld.com Many online casinos are based in countries such as Costa Rica and Antigua. In these countries police are ill-equipped to battle sophisticated international cybercrimes. Casino operators, some facing illegal gambling indictments in the U.S., complains about FBI incompetency to battle extortions against offshore gambling sites. FBI has declined to discuss specific details of Internet investigations, but a spokesperson says, as matter of policy, "we pursue anything illegal on the Internet". Online gambling is legal in Britain-----this is why the country's National Hi-Tech crime unit leads the global hunt for cybercriminals.
Tracking down cybercriminals can be difficult for law enforcement. Here's why. Computers they use are usually not their own, so tracing the Internet protocol addresses can prove worthless. Example: The bogus requests are bounced off other servers around the world. Next they circulate viruses that place thousands of targeted websites and computers under their control. These are known as zombies. The extortionists then mobilize their zombies to bombard the target server with torrents of requests for information. There are numerous variations of 'denial-of-service' attacks. Yet they either over tax the processing power of the servers of the gambling sites or jam up pipelines. Experts say there's no end-result but digital gridlock, effectively shutting down communications between the site and its customers followed by payment demand to restore service is sent by email. If the blackmail request sent by email investigators chance of nabbing the crooks is highly possible but anonymous addresses are always used and finding the source creates another dilemma.
Certainly, though, law enforcement succeeded in making arrests by following the money trail back to the extortonists if casino operators make 'blackmail' payments and report the transaction. Last fall in November, British police arrested 10 suspects in Latvia, charged with collecting payments from British sites. "They were the mules picking up the payments", says Colin Walker, general manager of Canbet, one of the British gambling sites that wired money to Latvia. Those suspects provided information that helped police to nab other prominent suspects.
On July 20th 2004, Russian authorities and British police scored 'big' fishes. Following a trail of payments they arrested three Russians in St. Petersburg linked to online gambling extortion. Police uncovered a connectiion with the Russian mafia. "We've identified at least five groups, says James B. Herrera, President of Portcullis tech inc, based in Miami Florida.
Super Bowl Preparation
Since last fall, hundreds of online casinos have prepared to counter the efforts of hi-tech gangsters' attempt to force them to pay extortion money during online betting for the upcoming super bowl. Service companies like Porticullis and DigiDefense International provides a tech-box that diverts attacks onto their own networks, where technicians filter out the malicious messages.
To stop these extortion attacks owners of sports books and online casinos must network together , spend money on technology defense, in cooperation with law enforcement to fight back and not give in to demands by hi-tech criminals.
Journalist Humor: Alright dedicated fans of Americanmafia.com-----let's make a legit bet. Who'd you think will win the 2005 Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Eagles? I pick the Eagles. Remember we're not making an illegal bet (online) with an offshore casino. And for those organize crime groups---they can't get a dime!
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