Authorities said 18 members of the gambling ring were charged in an indictment unsealed Wednesday. Agents arrested 14 of the defendants during raids in Los Angeles and San Diego. One of the alleged ring leaders was captured in Norway.
All were connected to Macho Sports, an Internet and telephone gambling business. According to the indictment, Jan Harald Portocarrero and Erik Portocarrero ran the business from Lima, Peru, using the Internet and toll-free telephone lines to accept bets from customers in California.
Agents seized a home in La Jolla and raided several other locations, including a Los Angeles motel. The FBI says the undercover investigation began two years ago.
The organization is accused of using intimidation, threats and violence to get bettors to pay outstanding debts.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said that billions of dollars are being made outside the law now that technology has made illegal gambling more accessible.
"Illegal gambling is a thriving illegal business hiding in plain sight. The Department is committed to combating this crime, which too often is characterized by organized criminals, shady bookies, serious violence and lives in shambles because of gambling addiction," she said.