Football Pool Operator Can’t Sue New Jersey for Malicious Prosecution

Posted on: September 17, 2020, 12:05h. 

Last updated on: September 17, 2020, 02:02h.

Appellate judges in New Jersey have ruled that a former private football pool operator cannot claim malicious prosecution against the state. The ruling declared the operator was not vindicated at his trial four years ago, The Asbury Park Press reports.

John Bovery
John Bovery’s office pool grew into a monster over a period of 20 years, with thousands of paying customers across the world. (Image: NJ.com)

John Bovery is a former Wall Street executive turned teacher, who was busted in 2010 for running a six-figure NFL survivor pool with thousands of entrants. He argues that his operation was not illegal under New Jersey law.

Bovery claims he was the victim of a naked state-sanctioned cash grab when, just days before the start of that year’s season, prosecutors seized $846,000 from his bank accounts, charging him with promoting gambling and money laundering.

Bovery’s bail was set at $250,000 cash, which he couldn’t pay because the state had seized all of his money.

Voluntary Vig

In April 2010, Bovery accepted a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to a lesser charge of possessing gambling records. Criminal charges were dismissed after he took the court’s pretrial intervention program.

But the state got to keep the money because prosecutors brought a successful forfeiture action against him, proving the money came from illegal gambling.

Bovery says it didn’t because he never took a vig. Instead, he asked entrants and winners to donate “gifts” voluntarily, something prosecutors dispute.

There is no reference to office pools in New Jersey gaming law. But a person is guilty of promoting gambling when he or she “(a)ccepts or receives money or other property, pursuant to an agreement or understanding with any person whereby he participates or will participate in the proceeds of gambling activity.”

On Wednesday, the Appellate Division of Superior Court upheld a 2019 ruling by Monmouth County Superior Court that dismissed Bovery’s legal bid to claw back the cash.

High-Level Entrants

Bovery launched the pool in 1990 with a few dozen Wall Street friends. In its final full year, there were 8,377 entries from around the world, each paying $100 to play. The winner walked away with $520,000 after striking a deal with three other players.

According to Bovery, players included well-known sports broadcasters, New Jersey state troopers, “dozens” of lawyers, and the agents for several PGA Tour golfers.

The operation was uncovered by complete accident. One year, the winner of the pool just happened to be an associate of Joseph LaScala, capo of the New Jersey faction of the Genovese crime family. He was already the subject of a police investigation, and detectives wanted to know why Bovery had sent him a check for a large sum of money.