Romanian Citizens Arrested and Charged with Laundering $1.4 Million in Proceeds from Jewelry Thefts and Covid Fraud
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – August 7, 2015
SAN DIEGO - Two brothers were sentenced today for leading an international gambling ring that took millions of dollars in illegal sports wagers over the last decade in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas.
U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino sentenced Jan Harald Portocarrero to 18 months in custody and a $50,000 fine; Erik Portocarrero received a 22-month sentence and a $50,000 fine.
Judge Sammartino ordered the Portocarreros to forfeit $1.7 million that they obtained from their illegal gambling business, “Macho Sports.” In addition, the brothers and 16 other defendants were ordered to forfeit unlawful gambling proceeds valued at over $10 million.
According to court documents, the FBI investigation of Macho Sports began in 2011, and employed wiretaps and undercover agents to infiltrate the organization and uncover the defendants’ illegal gambling and extortionate debt collection activities. Nearly two years ago, in coordinated law enforcement actions in Norway, Los Angeles, and San Diego, FBI agents and Norwegian police arrested 18 members of Macho Sports, and seized nearly $12 million in illegal assets.
Jan Portocarrero and Erik Portocarrero were both arrested in June 2013, although they were half a world apart – Jan Portocarrero surrendered to authorities in Los Angeles, California, and Erik Portocarrero was arrested in Oslo, Norway. For the next 22 months Erik Portocarrero fought his extradition from Norway, but that legal battle ended when the Kingdom of Norway extradited him to the United States.
According to the superseding indictment and admissions in court, Jan Portocarrero and Erik Portocarrero started their illegal gambling business shortly after the 1995 Super Bowl. Although originally from California, the Portocarrero brothers set up Macho Sports in Peru after being investigated for gambling crimes in the Los Angeles area.
Using the Internet and toll-free telephone lines, Macho Sports accepted high-stakes sports bets from customers throughout California. The organization ensured the prompt payment of gambling debts through, among other means, intimidation and a reputation of violence toward delinquent customers. The co-conspirators avoided detection by laundering their illegal proceeds and maintaining a company headquarters and physical platform outside the United States.
The Portocarreros employed managers in Peru to oversee the enterprise’s telephone and internet operations, resolve disputes and adjust customers’ lines of credit. The organization also used teams of bookies—such as Amir Mokayef of La Jolla, California (who operated primarily in the San Diego area) and Joseph Barrios (who operated primarily in the Los Angeles area)—to recruit customers, pay off winning bets, and collect losing bets.
Mokayef and Barrios, in turn, managed their own network of “sub-bookies” to recruit customers and collect payments. The enterprise also used “runners,” who dealt directly with customers and maintained thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars in cash to handle customer payments and collections. Millions of dollars from these “banks” – which the conspirators kept in their homes and safe deposit boxes – were seized by authorities as part of the investigation.
Mokayef and Barrios have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The other individual defendants have also pleaded guilty and either have been sentenced, or are awaiting sentencing.
“After running an international racketeering organization for two decades, Jan and Erik Portocarrero finally faced American justice today,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “Despite attempting to evade U.S. law enforcement by moving their sophisticated operations to Peru and Norway, they must now face substantial custodial sentences and millions in forfeitures. No longer can their global Macho Sports enterprise engage in violence, threats, and intimidation to amass illegal profits.”
Duffy added: “We wish to thank our law enforcement partners in Norway for their invaluable assistance throughout this case.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum commented, “Today’s sentencings mark the end of a sophisticated international gambling criminal enterprise that preyed upon the gambling addiction of its customers. It also reaffirms the FBI’s commitment to working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners, integrating intelligence into our criminal investigations and dismantling sophisticated criminal enterprises such as Macho Sports.”
The Portocarreros were ordered to report to prison on August 31, 2015.
DEFENDANTS Case Number: 13CR2196-JLS
Jan Harald Portocarrero Age: 42 Los Angeles, CA
Erik Portocarrero Age: 44 Oslo, Norway
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy to Conduct Enterprise Affairs (RICO Conspiracy), in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1962(c)&(d)
Maximum penalties: 20 years in prison, 3 years supervised release; and a $250,000 fine
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation