Eric Ford
Eric Ford

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – A Hawaii Island resident’s plan to make a profit from his business has landed him behind bars.

Eric Ford, 45, who headed the Aloha Springs Water Company in Kailua-Kona, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi to 20 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of conducting, directing, managing, owning, and supervising an illegal gambling business, and three counts of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.

Ford was indicted in 2012 with 7 others including his wife Barbara Ford for operating a massive gambling operation that reportedly involved millions of dollars in wagers on sports betting and card games.

Federal agents raided Ford’s business, home and safe deposit boxes on November 28, 2012.

Ford pleaded guilty to the offenses on February 21, 2013.

Others charged in the case were Marlo Banasan, Matthew Phillips, Kendale Limahai, Robert Bland, Jonah Yardley, Trevor Carter and Barbara Ford. They also pleaded guilty to related charges in a deal with federal prosecutors.

Ford was the manager of the Aloha Springs Water Company, formed in 2007.

According to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office, “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.”

An offshore sports betting site called www.wager.dm was used by Ford to facilitate bets, according to the 2012 indictment.

All forms of gambling is illegal in the state of Hawaii.

At his sentencing, the judge called the operation “sophisticated.”

Besides spending 20 months in prison, Ford has forfeited $129,566 in cash, a vehicle, and a Rolex. Other defendants are forfeiting an additional $66,339 in cash and two vehicles.

Hawaii Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation over four years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar prosecuted the case.

Over the last several months, the FBI and IRS have teamed up to bust multiple gambling rings in Chinatown and elsewhere.

FBI Special Agent Tom Simon said: “Much of the organized crime activity we see in Hawaii involves illegal gambling operations. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to dismantle these criminal enterprises as they pop up.”

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