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Sports Gambling Ring Busted, 17 Indicted: Officials

A nationwide illegal sports gambling ring that netted more than $32 million a year has been smashed, police said Wednesday.

A total of 17 individuals from New York, Nevada, Arizona and California were indicted in connection with a "highly sophisticated" enterprise that used offshore gambling websites, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a news release.

It is accused of "laundering its criminal proceeds by depositing and withdrawing large sums of cash from various banks throughout the United States," the statement said.

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"The defendants are charged in a 124-count indictment with enterprise corruption," it added, noting that they each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Fourteen were arrested Wednesday, including nine in the Los Angeles area. Three others were still being sought, the Queens County, New York, District Attorney Richard Brown's office said in a statement.

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The statement said the operation had more than 2,000 active bettors and utilized an 800 phone number and the offshore Internet website www.365Action.com to take wagers on professional and college basketball, football, hockey and baseball.

"Internet gambling has been compared by some to the crack cocaine epidemic of the late 80's and early 90's"

Brown's statement identified the alleged boss of the operation as Cyrus Irani, 37, of Santa Clarita, California.

"There are some who would argue that Internet gambling is a victimless crime," Brown said in the statement. "I very much disagree. Internet gambling has been compared by some to the crack cocaine epidemic of the late '80s and early '90s. It has been said of Internet gambling that you simply 'click the mouse and lose your house.' Once you start, you cannot stop."