Montreal Police Internal Affairs Investigation Leads to Crackdown on Illegal Sportsbooks

Written By Janice Doughtrey

Police units in several cities in the province of Quebec have simultaneously launched a crackdown directed against an active network of illegal sportsbooks operations purportedly linked to organized crime. According to Montreal Police Commander Ian Lafrenière, a two-year old police internal affairs investigation concerning Sgt. André Thibodeau, a supervising patrol officer of the Montreal police force, led to the unraveling of a large-scale illegal sports betting ring that is now the target of a province-wide clean-up operation headed by the Montreal Internal Affairs Division.       

Commander Lafrenière disclosed that for the past two years, the IAD actively pursued a report about Sgt. Thibodeau’s association with a certain Natalino “Lino” Paccione of Laval, who, in 2011 had pleaded guilty to similar charges filed against him. Commander Lafrenière described Paccione as the head of the illegal sports betting network operating in the province of Quebec, and has ten lieutenants working under him, handling illegal sports betting transactions on professional sports matches. The Montreal Police Commander stated emphatically that the illicit sports gambling activities were for wagers that reached up to CA$125,000 per betting transaction.

He said that both Paccione and Thibodeau will be arraigned at the Laval courthouse on January 16, 2014 (Friday) to answer for charges of illegal bookmaking, plotting and engaging in criminal activities that benefit a criminal organization. He said that the results of Internal Affairs investigations established that Sgt. Thibodeau was acting as Pacione’s “right hand man.” However, the Montreal police chief made it clear that Thibodeau’s duties, as supervising patrol officer, did not make him privy to confidential information pertaining to investigations related to organized crime.

Actually, the crackdown against illegal sports betting was initiated in 2006 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the force responsible for uncovering the illicit network of betting agencies operated by Paccione. The RCMP raids led to the arrest of several syndicated crime leaders and associates, including Paccione. The syndicate leaders are currently serving jail time for a series of criminal offenses that included drug trafficking. In 2011, Paccione got off with a CA$20,000 fine for pleading guilty to one count of illegal bookmaking after entering into a plea bargain agreement.

Court records show that Paccione played an important role as network agent as he was managing the illicit gambling activities, by running a call centre, initially based in Fleury St. in Montreal. The call centre though, was later transferred to an industrial section in the city of Laval. Using a 1-800 number and a password provided by agents of the illicit sports betting network, bettors placed their stakes through the call centre. Experts’ analysis of the evidence collected in 2006 indicated that the network received more than 1,600 customer calls, had processed as many as 800,000 bets and made profits estimated at more than CA$26 million, all within a span of two years.

Computer servers supporting the network were originally located in Kahnawake, but were transferred to Belize, a country located in the eastern coast of Central America and the only nation in the region that uses English as official language.

The joint police operations carried out last Thursday in several cities in Quebec involved over a hundred fifty police authorities belonging to the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec, and members of the municipal police forces of Blainville, Laval, and Quebec City.