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Butcher sentenced to prison for sports betting operation

November 30, 2020 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — A northern Illinois butcher who pleaded guilty to operating a sports-betting business and failing to report his proceeds to the Internal Revenue Service was sentenced Monday to one year in prison.

Domenic Poeta, 63, of Highland Park admitted in an August plea agreement with prosecutors that from 2014 to 2018, he used betting websites based in the Caribbean to process millions of dollars in sports wagers. He also admitted that between 2012 and 2017, he made more than $3.7 million. During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly said the length and breadth of Poeta’s scheme was enormous and it was likely federal prosecutors undercounted the amount involved.

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“The amount involved here is pretty breathtaking, quite honestly,” Kennelly said during the hearing, which took place by videoconference. The judge ordered Poeta to pay the $1.4 million he owes the federal government.

During the five years noted in Poeta’s indictment, he reported about $50,000 in taxable income from his butcher business and paid about $7,000 in federal income taxes, according to prosecutors. In one year, Poeta reported he had less than $12,000 in income and yet was able to buy a $1.5 million home in Highland Park.

In court documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick King alleged Poeta collected bets at his shop, his customers homes or workplaces and in public. King noted one gambler left envelopes of cash with his doorman but eventually began leaving undated checks for between $2,000 and $5,000 after seven years of constantly losing. Another gambler embezzled money from his family’s restaurant business to pay his debts, ultimately costing the family the business.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of up to about three years behind bars, saying Poeta’s operation victimized addicted gamblers.

Poeta apologized to the judge and asked for probation, saying he could best serve his penalty by taking care of his family and others.

“There’s a lot of people that I think need me,” said Poeta. “I just want to do the right thing and just pay my debt.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennelly put off the date Poeta must report to prison until May 29.