Illegal Gambling in Argentina Has 36 People, Including Police Commissioner, Facing Prison

A massive illegal gambling network in Argentina met its end last year after investigators realized the extent of the operations. There are now 36 on trial for their involvement, including a police commissioner and other government officials.

Argentina lottery
Argentina lottery
An Argentina lottery board from 2019. When those draws were held, some lottery agencies may have been operating illegally. (Image:
Ambito Financiero)

Illegal gambling in Argentina, as well as virtually every part of the world, is not uncommon. Law enforcement does what it can to stop them, but it’s a constant challenge.

Police in Santa Fe, Argentina, broke up a large illegal gambling network three years ago, but not before determining how extensive it was. They ultimately arrested dozens of people, 36 of whom are now going to stand trial after discovering that many lottery agencies and sub-agencies were not operating in accordance with the law.

In total, there are 25 women and 11 men between the ages of 25 and 83. Many could face up to seven years behind bars for their involvement.

Time To Pay the Piper

In presenting the indictment, the public prosecutor’s office formulated the request for convictions for the 36 people accused of forming illicit associations to organize and exploit illegal games. The sentences requested range from three years to a maximum of seven and a half years.

Seven persons were allegedly the heads of the illicit associations. The others were participants in the network, with different responsibilities to keep everything running. Among them is police commissioner Danilo Ivan Barrientos. Among the defendants, there are also heads of official agencies.

Prosecutors reported that the investigation revealed that at least five illicit associations dedicated to the illegal games of chance operated routinely over time in the city of Reconquista and its areas of influence. The heads of the criminal gangs organized systems to raise bets on clandestine lottery and pool games. To achieve their goals, they linked up with other people, including the heads of official betting agencies.

On repeated occasions, according to the prosecutor’s assessment, the heads of the criminal associations ordered and arranged payments to provincial public officials. Many of these, who helped keep the operations hidden from law enforcement, have not yet been identified publicly as the investigation continues.

Santa Fe Goes After Its Own

The prosecutor’s office reported that the province of Santa Fe is a plaintiff in the investigation. In this regard, this is the first investigation of illegal gambling in the north of the province in which the province is constituted as a plaintiff.

The Province of Santa Fe is as a plaintiff in this case. As such, according to prosecutors, it is up to its officials to assess the damage caused to the provincial treasury and to the Social Assistance Fund of the Province of Santa Fe.

Making that determination will be challenging. It is difficult to estimate the number of illegal bets that the criminal organization managed; however, it was significant.

Prosecutors identified a total of 80 official agencies and sub-agencies of the Santa Fe Lottery linked to the group. Before the raids, which took place in November 2019, they each billed an average of AR$400,000 (US$3,406) per month.

In the same month, after the raids, the collection rose to an average of AR$800,000 (US$6,812) per month. This continued in the following months, which gives an idea of the massive amount that such illegal activity collected in the area.

The group operated under the protection of local police, including that of Barrientos. Corruption in the police forces ran so deep that the investigation and the raids required the intervention of personnel from other police forces of other cities, as well as the public prosecutor’s office.

As the trial unfolds, it will become easier to name more names. Additional government, and possibly political, heads will roll before the trial concludes.

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