BETonSPORTS figures plead not guilty

St. Louis (Reuters) – BETonSPORTS Plc’s former chief executive and seven others pleaded not guilty to racketeering and other charges on Monday, while a judge extended to August 14 her order barring the online bookmaker from taking U.S. bets.

David Carruthers, who was sacked by BETonSPORTS after his arrest by U.S. authorities two weeks ago while passing through a Texas airport, entered the not guilty plea and was ordered held while a bail arrangement was worked out.

The company said on July 25 that Carruthers was fired because he could not fulfil his duties while in custody.

Carruthers, a 48-year-old Briton, was wearing a prison-issue T-shirt and khakis and was led into and out of court in handcuffs. Negotiations for his release were under way, prosecutors and Carruthers‘ attorney said.

The terms would require Carruthers to post a $ 1 million bond and remain in the St. Louis area pending trial, while his movements would be monitored with a global positioning system device.

He was among 11 people and four companies that have been charged in a 22-count indictment unsealed in St. Louis, alleging racketeering, fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy.

Ban on U.S. Bets

Meanwhile, another federal judge in St. Louis extended the ban on BETonSPORTS taking U.S. bets for another two weeks while prosecutors resolve questions about whether the company was served with the charges legally at its offices in Britain and Costa Rica.

A defendant in U.S. court cases — whether a company or an individual — must be contacted directly by the complaining party. Prosecutors told U.S. District Court Judge Carol Jackson that BETonSPORTS was served legally.

The company once again did not send a lawyer to the court hearings in St. Louis, triggering questions about whether it would seek to defend itself or instead take a position that U.S.-ordered sanctions against it were unenforceable. So far, the company has complied with the U.S. judge’s order not to take wagers from U.S. bettors.

The charges allege the company failed to pay U.S. excise taxes on more than USD 3.3 billion (1.77 billion pounds) in wagers taken from U.S. bettors. The government seeks forfeiture of USD 4.5 billion, removal of access to BETonSPORTS‘ Web sites in the United States, and the return of money held for U.S. account holders. The United States is the bookmaker’s biggest market.

Prosecutors said a U.S. lawyer had advised BETonSPORTS about whether to send a representative to court, but that the company had decided not to.

„By not coming to court, you can make the assumption that since we weren’t served, we can carry on our business in a normal capacity,“ said Kevin Smith, a BETonSPORTS spokesman, after the hearing.

Prosecutors had sought to make the ban on U.S. bets permanent, pending a trial.

Others entering the not guilty pleas were Neil Kaplan, Lori Kaplan-Multz, Tim Brown, William H. Lenis, William L. Lenis, Manny Lenis and Monica Lenis. All are free on bond.

The Kaplans are related to BETonSPORTS‘ founder Gary Kaplan, the subject of a U.S. arrest warrant. The Kaplans and Brown formerly worked for BETonSPORTS. The Lenis family members held positions with Florida firms involved in the online betting operation.

One of the Florida firms, DME Global Marketing & Fulfillment Inc., entered a not guilty plea, while two other companies did not enter pleas.