OPP laid additional charges against illegal gambling operation in Project Hobart

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Orillia (August 5, 2020) – Police accomplished another hit at the illegal gambling operation ran by and linked to members of known criminal organizations through the OPP’s investigation dubbed Project Hobart. As a result of further search warrants at numerous Ontario locations on July 29, they arrested more suspects, laid additional charges including fraud, and seized about $24 million in assets. Among the suspects is Hells Angels member, Robert Barletta. After the authorities charged 28 people with a combined 228 offenses in December 2019, now, a total of 32 people have been charged while shutting down the online and traditional gaming enterprise.

Project Hobart, an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) investigation into an illegal gambling organization, resulted in additional arrests of people and charges against suspects as well as the seizure of $24 million after numerous warrants were executed throughout Ontario on July 29, according to a press release by the provincial police. Already in December 2019, officers shut down a lucrative online and traditional gaming enterprise operated by and linked to members of known organized crime groups such as members of the Hells Angels.

Project Hobart

The OPP launched Project Hobart in January 2018 as a result of an escalation of violence across Ontario and Quebec between August 2017 and May 2018 including attempted murder, arsons, extortion threats, shootings, and assaults. To end the illegal gaming enterprise, the project combined 18 police agencies and enforcement organizations.

During the investigation, the OPP linked the major illegal gaming enterprise to members of the Hells Angels among other illicit activities. Three members and one prospect member of the Hells Angels are among the suspect. The four men have been identified by officers as Robert Barletta, Craig McIlquham, Eugenio ‘Gino’ Reda, and Raffaele Simonelli.

Barletta, McIlquham, and Reda are accused of operating five sophisticated illegal gaming websites: Ultimate Sportsbook, Titan Sportsbook, PlaytoWin Sportsbook, Privada Sportsbook, and Players Sportsbook. Between January 1, 2019, and July 2019, Sportsbook brought in approximately $13 million in gaming revenue for the Hells Angels.

In December 2019, the OPP started an Ontario-wide bust against the lucrative online and traditional gaming enterprise. The authorities charged 28 people with a combined 228 offenses and seized assets worth $12 million. Barletta has been charged for failing to report revenues totaling over $770,000 for tax years 2015 to 2018. McIlquham has been charged for failing to report revenues totaling over $2,000,000 for the tax years 2014 to 2018.

The police linked the operators of this sophisticated illegal gaming organization to the Figliomeni crime family as unveiled in July 2019 by the York Regional Police-led Project Sindacato joint forces investigation.

More tax evasion charges laid

On July 29 of this year, the OPP and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) executed multiple search and other judicial warrants in London, Oakville, Toronto, Pickering, Welland, and Thornbury. They seized and/or restraint assets worth $24 million, including three residences and a vacant vacation property, eight vehicles including sports cars, a vintage automobile, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle, the financial assets of three land/property development companies including building lots in the Collingwood area – one of which has a $7 million newly-built house on it – $82,590 and US$25,398 in cash, and approximately 7 kilograms of Psilocybin as well as half a kilogram of Marihuana for a total value of $66,986.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, the OPP re-arrested Hells Angels member Barletta for money laundering and fraud related charges. Police said, the fraud charges were related to tax evasion. In addition to his previous charges, the police amended his tax evasion charges to reflect a greater taxable benefit. Furthermore, three other persons faced additional charges including money laundering and proceeds of crime. One of them is also facing drug related charges.

Four additional persons have been charged with commission of offenses for a criminal organization, bookmaking, proceeds of crime, money laundering, and tax evasion. All eight accused have been released and are scheduled to appear in court in Brampton on September 17.

‘Police and our partner agencies are again demonstrating that we are relentless in our pursuit of criminal organizations and their leaders, their associates and their criminal lifestyle, ensuring the safety of our communities,’ stated Chief Superintendent Kari Dart, Commander of the OPP Investigation and Support Bureau in their press release.

Read more: CRA achieves successes in major efforts combating tax evasion in December 2019