Peter Mitchell, AAP
The FBI and US prosecutors have praised Australian authorities for helping smash what they allege was an international narcotics trafficking and illegal gambling ring.
Owen Hanson Jr, a former college gridiron player already wanted in Australia for money laundering through Sydney and Las Vegas casinos, was named on Wednesday in the US as the ringleader of a violent criminal enterprise dubbed ODOG.
The organisation allegedly sent a DVD of a beheading and a photo of a customer’s family gravestone in an effort to collect an alleged $US2 million ($A2.84 million) debt.
Hanson, 33, a former member of the elite University of Southern California football team, was one of 22 people charged in an indictment unsealed in San Diego.
Former San Francisco 49ers’ running back Derek Loville, 47, was also charged with distributing drugs for ODOG in Arizona.
Hanson has been locked up in California since his arrest in September after a NSW Police and FBI sting that also led to the arrest of Australian music promoter Andrew McManus at Melbourne airport and three other men in Sydney.
‘Today’s indictment will begin the process of dismantling a sophisticated international criminal enterprise that used violence and intimidation to advance their criminal objectives,’ FBI special agent in charge, Eric Birnbaum, said on Wednesday.
‘The FBI is appreciative of the assistance from our domestic and international law enforcement partners in this investigation, especially the Australian Crime Commission, the New South Wales Police Force and the New South Wales Crime Commission.’
US authorities arrested 19 of Hanson’s co-defendants in various locations around the US on Wednesday, Peru-based Kenny Hilinski remains a fugitive, while Giovanni ‘Tank’ Brandolino was also previously apprehended.
ODOG allegedly had a network of bookmakers stretching from California on the west coast to Virginia in the east and violence and threats were used on delinquent betters, the indictment states.
ODOG is also accused of distributing cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and ecstasy domestically and internationally in wholesale and retail quantities.
The investigation stemmed from of a prior international sports gambling case against the Macho Sports Enterprise, which resulted in the indictment of 19 defendants in 2013.
It led the FBI to begin working with NSW police and the NSW Crime Commission to uncover the ODOG international sports betting, drug and money laundering operation, authorities allege.
‘Transnational criminal organisations pose a significant threat to our country and our allies throughout the world,’ US Attorney Laura Duffy said.
‘Such criminal organisations are unhindered by national boundaries, and unrestricted in the types of crimes they will commit in the pursuit of illegal profits.’