72-year-old Gambling “Enforcer” going to Prison

A 72-year-old New York man is headed to prison after admitting that he was a gambling “enforcer.”

Eric Battistoni worked as an enforcer for Thi C. Nguyen, a bookie who also owns a nail salon in West Seneca, NY. Battistoni’s duties included visiting gamblers who didn’t pay up when they owed Nguyen money.

One Vietnamese man went to the FBI when Battistoni showed up at his restaurant and intimidated him over a $24,000 debt.

“He would testify that the tone of that conversation indicated violence would be used to settle the debt,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce told Buffalo News.

After the first time that Battistoni showed up in 2013, he and Nguyen harassed the unidentified Vietnamese gambler two more times while repeating violent threats.

The FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Buffalo Fire Department all helped in an investigation that led to the arrests of Battistoni and Nguyen. The investigation turned up a ledger in Nguyen’s home that detailed the gambling operation.

As for Battistoni, he will spend up to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to extortion. Nguyen has also pleaded guilty to extortion and is awaiting his fate.

Gambling-related extortion incidents such as these were common in past decades, when gaming opportunities were limited. However, modern gambling offers more opportunities than ever before, thanks to the expansion of regional casinos and online sportsbooks. So most people don’t deal with shady bookies very often.

But there is still a small percentage of gamblers who deal with nefarious bookies who can offer big action. Perhaps incidents like the one involving Battistoni and Nguyen will encourage the U.S. federal government to review the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.

PASPA makes it illegal for any state outside of Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Washington to offer legal sportsbooks. New Jersey has repeatedly challenged this law over the past three years, but to no avail. The likely reason why federal courts continue turning down New Jersey is because professional sports leagues like the NFL and MLB lobby against sports betting. However, with times changing, there’s always the chance that PASPA will one day be repealed.

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