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Betting racket busted in US, five NRIs arrested

Raj Kumar Bansal, 59, and his two sons have been identified as sports gambling "ringleaders", writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2006 01:58 IST

In a major police operation, an NRI family and two other Indian Americans have been arrested in the Washington metro area and charged with running a multi-million dollar sports gambling racket that involved hundreds of clients.

Police seized nearly $2 million (Rs 9 crore) in cash and $1 million worth of jewellery in a coordinated sweep of more than 25 homes, business and financial institutions in Northern Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina.

Raj Kumar Bansal, 59, and his two sons, Nicholas Bansal, 34, and Steven Bansal, 31, have been identified as the "ringleaders". The other two NRIs in custody are Gaurav Gupta, 25, and Rajan Harjani, 47.

Three others nabbed in the case are: Sharon R. Connelly, 65, Thomas N. Chinault, 57, and Michael D. Linton, 30.

Without revealing details on how the gambling operation was run, the police said it primarily involved betting on professional football and basketball games.

Participants could place bets on the phone, the internet or at businesses serving as fronts for the operation.

Dubbed "Operation Underdog", the police investigation lasted over two years. The men have been charged with "crimes more reminiscent of 1920s Chicago than today's Washington suburbs", said media reports quoting police officials.

Captain David S. Vice, commander of the Fairfax County Police Department's Organised Crime and Narcotics Division, said the suspects had "hundreds and hundreds, if not close to thousands" of clients and collected millions of dollars a year.

Each of the Bansals have been charged with conducting illegal gambling operation, racketeering and money laundering.

Raj and Nicholas Bansal have additionally been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

One of the suspects, Linton, has been charged with extortion or using threats of violence to seize property.

First Published: Feb 18, 2006 01:58 IST