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Jeff German

Vegas betting expert sentenced to 18 months in prison

2 October 2015

A Las Vegas betting expert was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in federal prison for running an illegal gambling operation and hiding money from the IRS.

Tony Chau, 32, a Vietnamese immigrant who marketed an online wagering system to customers across the country, also was ordered to pay $567,571 in restitution to the IRS and forfeit another $1.4 million to the government.

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware also told Chau he would have to serve 200 hours of community service and stay out of the gambling business during three years of supervised release after prison.

Chau, who has until Nov. 30 to surrender, apologized for his actions and told Boulware he has lost everything.

"Your honor, I stand before you today a broken man," Chau said, acknowledging that he should have been more careful in his business dealings.

Boulware said Chau seemed like a "thoughtful and industrious" man and he hoped his talent and energy would be channeled to the right side of the law when he gets out of prison.

Chau operated the now-closed website with help from offshore sportsbooks in Costa Rica and Panama, which do not have Nevada licenses, according to his May plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

He pleaded guilty to three charges: conducting an illegal gambling business, money laundering and making a false statement on a tax return.

Chau established his customer base through sale of his wagering system, and then referred customers to the offshore sportsbooks to set up betting accounts, according to the plea agreement. He received commissions from the sportsbooks on the gambling losses of the customers.

The IRS investigation revealed that Chau failed to report the $1.4 million he earned from the offshore sportsbooks on his tax returns between 2008 and 2011.

Chau started the illegal gambling business in 2007, while he lived in Massachusetts, and kept it going in 2008 after he moved to Las Vegas, authorities said.