By Jeff Lehr
A federal judge has fined a Joplin man $2,000 and ordered him confined to his home for six months for running an illegal sports gambling operation on the Internet.
District Judge Richard Dorr ordered Kenneth B. Lovett, 73, to serve two years on probation, including the period of home confinement, at a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Springfield. Lovett also is forbidden to gamble or to enter any gaming establishments for the length of his probationary period, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri.
Lovett and another Joplin resident, William Lisle, 58, were charged in a 16-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Feb. 29.
Lovett, who was charged with a single count of transmitting wagering information over the Internet, pleaded guilty May 18 in a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office. The conviction carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a year of supervised release. The judge fined Lovett $2,000 and placed him on probation for two years in lieu of a prison sentence.
Lisle was indicted on a single count of transmitting wagering information over the Internet and 15 counts of money laundering. He pleaded guilty July 5 to single counts of each offense and is awaiting sentencing.
Court documents indicate that Lovett ran a gambling operation primarily handling wagers placed on National Football League games between Jan. 1, 2003, and Feb. 8, 2011.
His plea agreement states that in 2006 he took Lisle on as a partner and that they shared the income and expenses of the operation equally until 2010, when Lisle’s share of the business increased to 60 percent.
The partners paid two offshore Internet websites, BETEAGLE and GOTOHC, to administer their bookmaking operations. The server for both websites is located in Costa Rica.
Lovett and Lisle would give their customers account numbers and passwords to access the websites, obtain betting lines and place bets. The websites kept running totals of players’ wins and losses, and the two Joplin men would pay the websites’ operators a fee for each gambler who placed bets.
The sports betting operation reportedly flourished its last five years of operation, with one local gambler wagering as much as $35,000 a weekend through Lisle and Lovett during the football season.
When FBI and IRS agents served a search warrant on Lisle’s home at 4517 W. 27th St. on Feb. 8, 2011, they seized $98,263 in suspected gambling operation money. Much of the cash was in envelopes with names and numbers written on them. Numerous betting ledgers also were seized.