Georgia Illegal Sports Wagering Scheme Leads to Prison, Forfeiture, Feds Reveal

Posted on: March 20, 2021, 05:56h. 

Last updated on: March 21, 2021, 01:48h.

Three men have pled guilty in connection with an alleged illegal sports betting operation in Georgia. That has led to a pending prison sentence for at least one of the men, and a total of about $650,000 in forfeiture and restitution.

The scheme allegedly used two legitimate businesses for the operation
David H. Estes, Acting US Attorney for Southern Georgia, shown here. Estes announced three guilty pleas this week in connection with an alleged illegal sports gambling operation. (Image: Department of Justice)

One of the men, Grady Brandon Mobley, 44, of Waynesboro, Ga., was a “bookie” for at least 10 years. He was working out of the state’s Burke County, according to David H. Estes, Acting US Attorney for Southern Georgia.

Initially, Mobley allegedly collected wagers and paid out winnings on his own. Eventually, his operation involved a sports wagering online site, Estes said.

It was operated from Costa Rica, Estes adds. Then, in 2015, the wagering operation merged with a smaller organization.

Mobley recently pled guilty to a federal charge of prohibition of an illegal gambling business, Estes said in a statement released on Friday.

Daniel Cates, 50, also of Waynesboro, Ga., and Joel Rees, 59, of Greenwood, S.C., pled guilty to the same count.

In addition, Mobley pled guilty to fraud and false statements. Under a plea agreement, Mobley will spend 12 months and one day in federal prison.

The scheme allegedly used two legitimate businesses for the operation, according to statements from federal officials.

About $650,000 in Restitution, Forfeiture

Mobley must also forfeit $340,084 and will pay $207,716 in restitution to the IRS and Georgia Department of Revenue. He was also fined $2,000.

Under the plea arrangement, Cates must also forfeit $100,000, Estes said.

The trio appeared this week before US District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall in Georgia federal court regarding the pleas. They were each released from custody after posting bail.

“These men participated in an illegal gambling operation for at least a decade in the Waynesboro area, eventually funneling business through a foreign-based website,” Estes said in the statement.

“But even that offshore venture wouldn’t keep them out of the reach of diligent law enforcement professionals who turned the tables on this illicit operation,” Estes added.

Tire Store, Liquor Store Used in Cashing, Depositing of Checks

Through a federal inquiry, it was revealed that between 2015 and 2017, Mobley allegedly cashed checks from bettors at his parent’s check-cashing business. It operated out of Mobley Package Shop in Girard, Ga., Estes said.

The checks totaled about $220,000, Estes adds. Mobley also worked with Cates, who allegedly funneled about $250,000 of the gambling proceeds via Cates Firestone. That business is owned by Cates.

In exchange, Cates was given money and unspecified favors by Mobley, Estes said. Mobley also allegedly listed false information on his income tax returns.

“No matter how hard these defendants tried to hide their illegal operation, their greed ultimately caught up with them,” Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Atlanta, said in the statement.

Georgia State Legislators Push for Expanded Gambling

Earlier this year, bills were proposed in Georgia to eventually allow legal online sports betting. The state was also weighing bills to eventually permit legal commercial casinos and horse tracks.

A House panel recently approved a proposal to ask residents if Georgia should expand legal gambling, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Across the world, in an unrelated inquiry, Italian authorities seized more than $95.8 million related to alleged illegal gambling linked to organized crime in Italy.

The operation involved online sports wagering, authorities claim. Overall, the investigation is targeting 336 suspects.