Brothers Sentenced to Federal Prison for Running Macho Sports Betting Ring

Posted on: August 10, 2015, 02:46h. 

Last updated on: August 10, 2015, 02:47h.

Macho Sports sentencing Portocarrero brothers
The Portocarrero brothers pleaded guilty to operating an illegal sports betting ring known as Macho Sports. (image: AP File Photo)

The Portocarrero brothers may have made a small fortune through an illegal sports betting ring, but they’ll now be spending most of the next two years in jail.

A District Court judge sentenced Jan Harald Portocarrero and Erik Portocarrero to prison time for being the leaders of Macho Sports, an illegal international sports betting ring.

Each of the two men was forced to pay a $50,000 fine. Jan Harald was sentenced to 18 months in prison as well, while Erik will be imprisoned for 22 months.

The two men also forfeited about $3 million in assets held in the United States and Norway, including one check they turned over in the courtroom that was worth $1.7 million.

Bets Primarily Taken from Southern California

The brothers had pleaded guilty to racketeering charges after admitting to running a sports betting operation that took in millions in bets over the past decade.

Their primary markets were in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas, where they took bets on both college and professional games.

When the two men first realized they were under investigation by the FBI, they moved to Lima, Peru in order to continue their operations.

From there, the operation, known as Macho Sports, continued to take bets from California using the Internet and telephone lines.

Over time, the operation gained a reputation for using intimidation and violence to collect on debts. Lead bookie Amir Mokayef, who recruited customers in San Diego, was witnessed by FBI agents beating up a gambler who refused to pay up.

In 2013, a total of 18 people connected to the ring were indicted, all of whom have now pleaded guilty to various charges. A total of just under $12 million in assets were seized as a part of the operation.

Long Extradition Battle Preceded Sentencing

Erik Portocarrero nearly managed to avoid being brought to justice, however.

Although he was arrested in Oslo, Norway (where his mother lives), he attempted to fight extradition to the United States, leading to a 22-month court battle that ultimately ended with Norway’s government ordering him to be sent back to San Diego.

“No longer can their global Macho Sports enterprise engage in violence, threats and intimidation to amass illegal profits,” said US Attorney Laura Duffy.

While the Portocarrero brothers will now spend time in prison, the length of those terms may seem surprisingly short.

The government had recommended slightly longer sentences: 33 months for Erik, and 27 months for Jan Harald, and they could have potentially faced up to 20 years in prison if they had received the maximum allowed sentences.

According to the New York Post, the much lighter prison terms upset at least one victim of the betting organization.

“Give all the hard work and the thousands of man-hours the FBI and [Department of Justice] spent on this case, this result sends a clear but disturbing message: you can break the law, commit acts of violence, be sentenced under the RICO Act and get a slap on the wrist,” the Post quoted an unnamed victim as saying.

A sentencing hearing for Joseph Barrios, another of the head bookmakers for Macho Sports who has already pleaded guilty, is scheduled to take place on September 11.