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Kona man sentenced in illegal gambling operation

A Kailua-Kona man was sentenced Thursday to 20 months in prison for one count of conducting, directing, managing, owning, and supervising an illegal gambling business and three counts of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.

Eric Ford, 45, pleaded guilty to the offenses on Feb. 21. Federal District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi handed down the sentence.

Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that according to documents filed in connection with the case, from at least November 2009 to November 2012, Ford operated an illegal gambling business out of Aloha Springs Water Co. located in Kailua-Kona.

Ford took numerous sports bets over the phone and online, collected gambling debts, and paid out gambling winnings. Ford also knew financial institutions are required by law to record cash purchases of money orders and other monetary instruments totaling $3,000 or more. To avoid this record keeping requirement, Ford structured the purchase of money orders totaling more than $3,000 by purchasing smaller amounts at multiple institutions.

Ford structured more than $120,000 between May 2009 and June 2012.

As part of his plea agreement, Ford forfeited $129,566 in cash and a vehicle purchased with proceeds traceable to the illegal gambling business. Ford also forfeited a Rolex watch he received as collateral for a gambling debt owed to him by a bettor. These items were seized on Nov. 28, 2012, during search warrants executed at his residence, business, and two safe deposit boxes.

An additional $66,339 in cash and two vehicles are being forfeited by other defendants in the case. Besides Ford, seven other individuals were indicted and have pleaded guilty to charges arising out of this case. At sentencing, Judge Kobayashi commented that Ford was the leader of a sophisticated gambling operation.


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