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Ontario Breaks $131M Gambling Ring, 28 Arrests Made

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A major sports betting ring has been uncovered in the province of Ontario, Canada, which has led to authorities making several arrests and seizing multiple items. The gambling ring is said to be closely linked to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and connected with a prominent Mafia crime family. Following the two-year investigation, it was discovered that five different betting sites were used in order to generate illegal funds of $131 million over a period of five years.

Locations Targeted in Ontario Gambling RaidsLocations Searched by the Authorities in the Anti-Gambling Investigation

Project Hobart Begins in January 2018


Despite the fact that the investigation of the gambling ring in question began back in January 2018, it was only on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) revealed details of the operation. Following a probe that took place into the gambling ring, which had both online and offline components, the OPP amassed a total of 228 charges against 28 people. It named that probe Project Hobart, and this began due to what the authorities described as an “escalation in violence” taking place between rival gangs in both Ontario and Quebec.

In order to conduct the investigation into the illegal gambling ring, 17 separate law enforcement organizations were called upon. This included police forces located in London, Woodstock, and Stratford who worked in cooperation with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Project Hobart Law Enforcement AgenciesThe Law Enforcement Bodies That Cooperated With Each Other for Project Hobart

Hells Angels gang member Michel Deabaitua-Schulde, who was involved in the illegal gambling setup, was murdered this past March. The biker was shot in the city of Mississauga, located in the suburbs of Toronto. Police described the 32-year-old as being “well-entrenched” in the gang as part of its Niagara chapter and proceeded to arrest four men from Montreal who were suspects in the daylight shooting. Investigators mentioned that the murder was a targeted hit. His funeral was attended by a large number of bikers, coming from as far away as Quebec and British Columbia.

Gambling Ring Utilized Five Sports Betting Sites

Police said that five different password-protected online sportsbooks were used by the criminal gang, which allowed it to generate huge amounts of money. It was suggested that they brought revenue of about $13 million to the gang in just the first half of 2019. The names of these sportsbooks are:

  • The Ultimate Sportsbook
  • Players Sportsbooks
  • Titan Sportsbook
  • Privada Sportsbook
  • Paytowin Sportsbook

Over a five-year period, the police said that these five online sportsbooks and a single offline location based in Mississauga allowed the Hells Angels gang to claim a total of $131 million. It was also discovered that the gambling ring was operated by Robert Barletta, Craig “Truck” McIlquham, and Eugenio “Gino” Reda: three members of the Hells Angels. Additional ties were found to Angelo Figliomeni, who was actually arrested by the police in July as part of a crackdown on a group known as the 'Ndrangheta mafia clan – an Italian mob.

Police went on to stage several raids in mid-December, and this resulted in them seizing a total of nine residential properties. At the same time, 21 firearms were found to be in possession of the gang, while 18 vehicles were also seized. Cash was also taken by the authorities, totalling C$1.7 million ($1.29 million), while C$320,000 ($243,536) worth of gold and silver coins and bars were also taken. Financial accounts were also seized, which held C$1.2 million ($913,262) in funds. The 28 arrested suspects will appear in the Ontario Superior Court throughout the next month.

Items Confiscated Under Project HobartThe Project Hobart Raids Certainly Led to an Interesting Haul of Goodies

Gang Members with Previous Charges Involved


This isn’t the first time that Robert Barletta has been charged for having connections to criminal activity. Previously, he was discovered to have had a role in the Platinum Sportsbook, which was another betting ring uncovered by the OPP. The site was run by Hells Angels as well and based itself out of Costa Rica. Working in unison with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the OPP managed to disrupt that setup back in 2013. Yet, despite several key players in the ring being arrested and jailed, the charges laid out against Barletta were actually dropped. It was this that led to him being given the nickname of the “Teflon Biker.”

Robert BarlettaThe Teflon Biker, Robert Barletta

While Barletta, of London, Ontario, is now being charged with 11 criminal offences, with five of those being gun-related, he’s not the only one to have been nabbed by the police. Another Londoner in the name of Habiba Kajan was also taken into custody by the authorities, charged with 10 firearms offences, three bookmaking offences, commission of an offence for a criminal organization and possession of property obtained through crime. She is reported as being the owner of the house at 203 Commissioners Rd. E. in London – a house that the OPP searched on Thursday.

Curiously, Kajan's house suffered not one but two separate fires after she had been arrested. The first occurred on the night of Dec.19 and decimated the interior of the property. Another blaze broke out the following evening when some furniture reignited, drawing firefighters and emergency workers back to the scene. The authorities deemed the first conflagration suspicious, and speculated that the fire may have been related to the ongoing illegal gambling cases.

Two more Londoners found themselves being charged alongside – Gordon Baird, 62, is also suspected of three bookmaking charges and commission of an offence for a criminal organization while Dejan Markovic, 38, has the same charges as well as six firearm offences. Both Baird and Barletta have been in court before on charges of offshore, illegal gambling operations.

It was Baird who admitted to being the administrator of the aforementioned Platinum Sports site in 2017, which grossed more than $103 million for the gang. While Baird has been released and is due to appear in court in January next year, Markovic remains in police custody for the time being.

According to neighbours in the Commissioners Road area, Barletta visited the house owned by Kajan frequently, which is how the police managed to link the two up. One neighbour spoke of the fact that Kajan “likes to party” although while the investigation details are still unfolding, police have yet to verify how the pair know each other.

The Current State of Gambling in Canada

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The province of Ontario currently has a gambling monopoly that provides parlay sports betting, which can take place at both land-based establishments and online sites. However, single-game wagering isn’t something that is available as a legal and regulated option for Canadians even though there have been several occasions where calls to have it legalized have taken place.

That being said, Canada’s gambling laws are a lot more lenient than that which is in place throughout its southern neighbour, the USA. This is why it’s a lot more common to find legal and regulated online casinos, poker rooms, and other opportunities being available to Canadian gamers. Most notably, Canadian law enforcement seldom or never targets gaming businesses located abroad, instead concentrating their efforts on illegal gambling that's taking place within Canada itself as in the case of the sports betting sites belonging to the Hells Angels.

Each of the Canadian provinces, with the exception of Saskatchewan, currently provide online gambling to their residents. While some of these sites do limit their options solely to providing lottery games, others have branched out to incorporate casino and poker alongside. British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec each have their own online poker rooms to satisfy their citizens who wish to get involved in such. But while Ontario does run lottery and casino games over the internet (as well as the aforementioned parlay sports betting), poker is not provided.

Earlier this year, Alberta sought out a tech partner to be able to regulate online gambling as well. Companies were provided with a time period until Feb. 28 to submit bids for providing such, and Alberta became the most recent province to involve itself in the scene.

Ontario Gambling Raids

Accessing Online Poker from Canada

We wouldn’t want any Canadian citizens to involve themselves in criminal activity so as to enjoy online poker options. Please don’t connect yourself with the Hells Angels or any sort of mafia mob. What you can do is visit one of our recommended poker rooms that provides legal offshore poker gaming to Canadian residents.

Bodog Poker has been noted as quite the enthralling location for players from Canada to visit and join. In fact, it provides a sportsbook and casino too, so you can satisfy all your gambling urges in one place. For more internet poker options, consult our poker guide for Canadian citizens.