By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU — Law enforcement officers on Wednesday arrested six Big Island residents on charges they ran an illegal gambling business in Kailua-Kona. A seventh defendant charged in the same scheme lives in Arizona.
A federal grand jury last week charged Eric Ford operated sports betting, poker games and craps games out of a Kailua-Kona bottled water company business. The six other defendants allegedly helped Ford take bets, collect gambling debts and pay gambling winnings.
Ford, 45, also allegedly used an offshore gambling site called World Wide Wagering to place sports bets. The grand jury said the business was in continuous operation for more than 30 days and generated gross revenue of at least $2,000 a day.
The indictment says Ford operated the business for three years starting in November 2009.
Ford and Barbara Ford, 44, are also charged with structuring financial transactions to evade federal reporting requirements. The indictment lists dozens of money orders bought at Safeway, Walmart, Western Union, and the U.S. Postal Service in Kailua-Kona. Most of the money orders were for between $2,000 and $3,000.
A telephone call to a Big Island number listed for both Eric and Barbara Ford rang unanswered Wednesday.
Each gambling and conspiracy count carries a maximum term of five years in prison. The financial structuring count is also punishable by up to five years in prison.
Federal prosecutors say the case resulted from an investigation initiated by the Hawaii Police Department. FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigators worked with Big Island police on the investigation.
The six Big Island residents arrested Wednesday are in custody and are being brought to Honolulu to face charges in federal court, said FBI spokesman Special Agent Tom Simon.
Barbara Ford was served a summons to appear in federal court for her arraignment on charges, he said.