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Markham gambling raid led to one of biggest organized crime busts

A York Regional Police officer during a raid at Le Parc Banquet Hall, Feb. 3, 2013. TUMBLR/The Rastaman's Camera

A police raid at a Markham banquet hall that was hosting an illegal gaming house on Super Bowl Sunday was just the tip of the iceberg, the RCMP said Tuesday.

Since the Feb. 3 raid, officers with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – including the RCMP, OPP and York Region Police – carried out a series of arrest warrants and took a total of 18 people into custody including the six arrested at the banquet hall.

“We have dismantled one of the largest illegal gaming groups in Canada,” assistant commissioner Stephen White said at York Regional Police headquarters.

There are warrants out for four more people, White added. The names of those arrested will be released Wednesday.

The gaming house was run by the same people that operated the Platinum Sportsbook website, an offshore betting site based in Costa Rica, police allege. Hell’s Angels also helped to run the site, Mounties said Tuesday.

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit investigation began with the OPP in 2011.

Officers seized $2.5 million in cash during the raid on Feb. 3. Since then, searches in Barrie, London and Toronto led to the seizure of $1.6 million as well as bank ledgers, police said Tuesday.

After the raid, all traffic to the website was rerouted to a police site and the customer service line was redirected to an RCMP phone.

The website was not open to the general public and neither was the Super Bowl party, police said. Only those invited to gamble could place bets.

On Super Bowl Sunday, about 400 officers burst into the Le Parc Banquet Hall near Highway 7 and Leslie Street around 8:30 p.m., and arrested the six men. Police seized almost $2.5 million in cash and 20 computers, as well as cellphones, business records and a large safe, police said at the time.

There were nearly 2,300 people at the hall watching the football game when police showed up, all of whom had been invited. They were allowed to leave without being charged.