Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Operation Slap Shot Scores

Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet is under indictment for gambling promotion, money laundering and conspiracy. Although the gambling ring he is alleged to have financed focused on football, the charges are a serious threat to the integrity of the NHL and other sports.

Tocchet in happier times.
Judging from the media release issued by Operation Slap Shot, an expanding ring of celebrities will soon be taken down:
The State Police investigation paints a picture of a highly organized sport betting system, which in a forty day period processed more than 1000 wagers exceeding 1.7 million dollars on professional and collegiate sporting events. Many of the rings clientele included past and present professional athletes and celebrities who are being interviewed as part of the ongoing investigation.

Beyond the bookmaking and corruption charges the investigation has revealed alleged ties to the Bruno-Scarfo Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra, operating in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
So far, Janet (Gretzky) Jones is the only "celebrity" named: by "two law enforcement officials...speaking on condition of anonymity" (such courage!). Another official said on the record that a "movie celebrity" was one of the bettors.

Among the conspirators is an eight-year State Police veteran, Trooper James J. Harney. He looks to be just the sort of pack-rat that takes down the mob inadvertently:
Starting Monday night, authorities seized property from Harney and Ulmer. State police seized $27,000 in currency, "voluminous" amounts of sports betting information and bank accounts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Fuentes said.
More entertaining is news that "A search of Harney's house recovered more than $250,000 worth of Rolex watches and nine plasma-screen televisions including two from his bathroom."

This guy had bigger problems than a gambling ring.

UPDATE I - SEE NO EVIL: Wayne isn't talking. But he sounds like a man who might have known something was going on. Asked about Janet's involvement, he replied: "You'd have to ask her that...Listen, first of all, my wife is my best friend, so my love for her is deeper than anything. The reality is, I'm not involved. I wasn't involved. I'm not going to be involved."

UPDATE II - NICE IF YOU CAN GET IT: State troopers do pretty well in New Jersey. NYT reports that Harney's income was $89,000 a year

UPDATE III - WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE: Scott Stevens doesn't help diminish the whiff of La Cosa Nostra when he says of Tocchet: "He's one of those old-school guys who makes things better for the young guys."

UPDATE IV - RECCHI FIRST OF THE SIX NAMED: Mark Recchi's name is now circulating as one of the six NHL players who bet through Tocchet's ring. Sports Illustrated is at the head of the pack, demanding that Tocchet be suspended indefinitely, and the dirty half-dozen immediately be suspended for the season. This is spiralling out of control quicker than a Danish cartoon.


At 7:52 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I would guess that the nine televisions were so he could watch all the games on NFL network at once. But yes, watching a game in the bathroom takes "worrying about the spread" to a whole new level.

I don't even understand why this is a story. Who cares if they bet on football? If it was hockey, then fine. I just don't see the problem with betting on another sport.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Kevin Kimmis said...

The problem is that this wasn't a legal sports book, like the ones in Atlantic City or Vegas; it was an illegal sports book with ties to organised crime. (Quick -- cue the music from the Sopranos!)

The problem is knowing where to draw the line with gambling. Colin Cowherd made a pretty reasonable argument in ESPN radio that many people in sports probably gamble on sports other than their own,... but also said it would require some regulation to ensure people weren't trading insider information (like, for example, Teddy Bruschi telling Tocchet that Brady wasn't starting in week 17 against Miami).

Of course, the problem with this is that, even with all that regulation, bad things can still happen (just ask shareholders in ATI, Tyco, Enron or WorldCom).

And anyone who thinks Janet was making bets with Tocchet on her own, instead of at her husband's request, is nuts. Gretzky will definitely get drawn into this.

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Sheamus Murphy said...

Janet Gretzky is a celebrity? I didn't think a bit role in Police Academy V qualified one for that level of distinction.

Kevin hush your mouth about Wayne. He would never do such a thing.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Um, she was also in "A League of Their Own." And who can forget her outstanding work with Mitch Gaylord in "American Anthem"?


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