Giordano ordered held without bail in gambling ring

Updated: November 29, 2006, 5:59 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A professional poker player accused of running a $3.3 billion illegal sports gambling operation was ordered held without bail Wednesday.

The balding and bearded James Giordano stood silently with hands cuffed behind his back at his arraignment in Queens Criminal Court as his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Giordano, 52, was arrested Nov. 15 by FBI agents who scaled the walls of his fortess-like Florida compound.

Authorities broke the case wide open last year when NYPD investigators secretly hacked into a laptop computer that Giordano allegedly had left in a Long Island hotel while attending a wedding.

Giordano was indicted along with 26 others, including three family members, on charges of running the online gambling scheme that rivaled casino sports betting.

Among them was Frank Falzarano, a former scout for the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants, who was arrested at his Seaford, Long Island, home. Falzarano allegedly was a top earner in a network of 2,000 bookies who took cash wagers from tens of thousands of customers nationwide. He was arraigned earlier this month. He was released on $500,000 bail, and told to return to court on Jan. 3.

The billion-dollar-a-year scheme, hatched in 2004, involved placing sports bets through bookies, who would assign bettors a secret code to track their wagers and monitor point spreads and results through a restricted Web site.

The bets were taken on all kinds of sports, including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, car racing and golf.

Authorities said defendants laundered and stashed away "untold millions of dollars" using shell corporations and bank accounts in Central America, the Caribbean, Switzerland, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Giordano's daughter and son-in-law also were arraigned Wednesday. Both pleaded not guilty.

His wife, Priscilla Giordano, was released on $1 million bail Wednesday. Daniel Clarin, the son-in-law, was held without bail. The daughter, Melissa Clarin, a mother of two young children, was freed on $500,000 bail.

Roger Adler, the Clarins' lawyer, said outside the courtroom: "This is obviously a significant case. We are trying to get our hands around it."

Attorneys for the other defendants declined comment Wednesday.

Giordano and Clarin were scheduled to return to court Dec. 7 for another bail hearing.

All four were extradited from Florida, where they live, to New York on Tuesday.

The 27 people, from New York, New Jersey, Florida and Nevada, were charged with enterprise corruption, money laundering, promoting gambling and other counts following a 28-month probe led by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press