Federal authorities in California earlier this month announced a series of cases stemming from an illegal gambling operation that involved current and former professional athletes.
In documents unsealed in United States District Court, the principals of the operation agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges and admitted they took in millions of dollars in bets, many facilitated by a Costa Rica-based gambling website.
The owner of the online gambling business and website pleaded guilty earlier this month and admitted the business was illegal under California law because it involved at least five people, operated for at least six years, and often had gross revenue of well over $2,000 on a single day.
Wayne Nix, 45, a former minor league baseball player, was charged with one count of conspiring to operate an illegal sports gambling business, and one count of filing a false tax return. Edon Kagasoff, 44, was Nix’s longtime partner in the operation, who was charged with one count of conspiring to operate an illegal sports gambling business.
In addition, Celebrity Financial LLC, dba Sherman Oaks Check Cashing, was charged with failing to maintain an effective money laundering program related to it cashing at least $18 million in checks from the illegal sport gambling business at its San Fernando Valley check cashing store.
According to the court documents, Nix began operating a bookmaking business about 20 years ago. Through his contacts in the sports world, Nix developed a client list that included current and former professional athletes, and he employed three former Major League Baseball players to assist with the business.
Kagasoff joined Nix in the gambling operation around 2014, and they used an online infrastructure and calling center operated by Sand Island Sports to create accounts for bettors.
Nix’s clients included a professional football player, a Major League Baseball coach, and a baseball analyst. The plea agreement mentioned a bettor who wagered $1 million a year with Nix’s operation, a $5 million bet on the 2019 Super Bowl, and a sports broadcaster who told Nix he was going to refinance his home to pay off gambling debts.
Nix admitted receiving $1,466,947 in income that he failed to report on his 2017 and 2018 federal income tax returns. Nix agreed to pay all back taxes due for those years – a total of $1,248,429, which includes the back taxes, penalties and interest. Nix also agreed to forfeit to the government nearly $1.3 million seized in February 2020 from two bank accounts and two brokerage accounts he controlled.