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Sports gambling website Bodog shut down; Canadian founder, partners indicted

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BALTIMORE - The sports gambling site Bodog has been shut down and four Canadians have been indicted, including founder Calvin Ayre, for illegal gambling that generated more than $100 million in winnings, U.S. federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

The website's domain name was seized Monday and the indictments, which were handed down Feb. 22, were unveiled Tuesday in Baltimore, prosecutors said.

Ayre, who's originally from Lloydminster, Sask., posted a statement on his website Tuesday saying that his company did not take bets in the U.S, where financial transactions involving online gambling service providers are illegal.

"Bodog UK, Bodog Europe and Bodog Asia have never taken bets from the US," the statement said. "The BodogBrand is currently consulting with its legal advisers with a view to having the domain returned."

The statement also said the Bodog domain has not been in use since operations were switched from Bodog.com to Bodog.eu by the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group and The BodogBrand.com revoked its licensing agreement with MMGG on Dec. 15.

In addition to the 50-year-old Ayre, prosecutors say the indictment names website operators James Philip, David Ferguson and Derrick Maloney.

The indictments follow federal prosecutions last year of three of the biggest websites involved in online poker. More than 75 company bank accounts in 14 countries have been frozen, and authorities are seeking $3 billion in fines and restitution, in that investigation.

On Tuesday, that probe netted another Canadian: Ryan Lang pleaded guilty in Manhattan to conspiracy charges, saying he helped the poker companies arrange to circumvent U.S. laws meant to prevent banks from processing online gambling proceeds.

Lang says he carried out the crimes from 2007 to the middle of 2010, operating out of Canada to help financial brokers who made false statements to the banks in order to trick them into processing payments.

In the Bodog case, gamblers in Maryland and elsewhere were sent a least $100 million by wire and check from 2005 to 2012, the U.S. Attorney's office allege.

Bodog also conducted a $42 million advertising campaign between 2005 and 2008 to attract gamblers to the Bodog.com website.

The operation allegedly moved funds from Bodog's accounts located in Switzerland, England, Malta, Canada and elsewhere to pay winnings to gamblers. The four face up to five years for conducting an illegal gambling business and 20 years for money laundering. Bodog.com faces a fine of up to $500,000 for gambling and money laundering. Initial appearances for the individuals have not been scheduled.

Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Baltimore, said the four are not in custody.

"Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

"Many of the harms that underlie gambling prohibitions are exacerbated when the enterprises operate over the internet without regulation."

Prosecutors say the investigation was led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Baltimore and also involved the Internal Revenue Service, Anne Arundel County Police and Maryland State Police. HSI agents seized the domain name on Monday.

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