By Jeff Lehr
A Joplin man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to operating an illegal gambling operation on the Internet.
Kenneth B. Lovett, 72, changed his plea to guilty in U.S. District Court in Springfield on a single count of transmitting wagering information over the Internet.
Lovett and another Joplin resident, William Lisle, 57, were charged in a 16-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury on Feb. 29. The indictment was unsealed in March with the arrests and initial court appearances of the two men.
Lovett faced just the single count, while Lisle faces one count of transmitting wagering information over the Internet and 15 additional counts of money laundering.
A plea agreement Lovett reached with the federal prosecutor’s office in Springfield states that he ran a gambling operation primarily handling wagers placed on National Football League games between Jan. 1, 2003, and Feb. 8, 2011.
The document states that in 2006, Lovett 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 federal prosecutor’s office alleges that the co-defendants paid two Internet websites, BETEAGLE and GOTOHC, to administer their bookmaking website. The server for those websites is located in Costa Rica, the document states.
Lovett and Lisle would provide their customers an account number and password to access their website, obtain betting lines and place wagers. The website kept running totals of players’ wins and losses, and Lovett and Lisle would pay the administrative websites a fee for each gambler who placed bets, with the fee typically ranging from $16 to $25 per week for each gambler.
“Lisle and Lovett’s gambling operation flourished when they began using the offshore gambling website in 2006,” the plea agreement states. “Their number of customers and the amount they wagered increased. One gambler would wager as much as $35,000 a weekend during football season.”
A search warrant served by FBI and IRS agents on Lisle’s residence at 4517 W. 27th St. on Feb. 8, 2011, turned up $98,263 in suspected gambling operation proceeds.
The plea agreement states that a majority of the proceeds was found in envelopes with names and numbers written on them. Numerous betting ledgers containing bettors’ names, nicknames or initials also were seized.
The plea agreement further states that Lovett told investigators on Jan. 27, 2010, more than a year before the search warrant was executed, that he and Lisle had been partners in the operation since 2006 or 2007, and that they used an offshore website to administer the business.
Clyde A. Jeffries, 76, a former Joplin man now living in Las Vegas, was indicted by the same federal grand jury that returned indictments against Kenneth Lovett and William Lisle in connection with sports betting on the Internet.
Jeffries is charged with transmitting wagering information over the Internet in the course of running a separate gambling operation from Oct. 25, 2010, to Feb. 8, 2011.