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Indiana Illegal Sportsbook Operator Avoids Prison Following Plea Bargain

Posted on: December 13, 2021, 07:48h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2021, 10:30h.

An Indiana man accused of operating an illegal sportsbook will spend no time in prison under a recent plea bargain. The operation received more than $17 million in athletic wagers over three years, according to a published report.

Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Scott Sirk, pictured above. He agreed to place an Indiana sportsbook operator on probation. Earlier, key evidence was suppressed in the case. (Image: Daily Reporter)

Bret A. Wells, 48, of New Palestine is to be placed on probation for 18 months. Wells could have been sentenced to up to two years in prison under the plea agreement. But Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Scott Sirk last week agreed to sentence him to probation.

Without the plea bargain, Wells could have faced many years in prison if convicted on six original counts. The initial charges include corrupt business influence, professional gambling, and knowingly engaging in bookmaking, two charges of promoting professional gambling, and two theft charges, the Daily Reporter, a local news organization, said.

He only plead guilty to professional gambling. Wells also will undergo an assessment for problem gambling, the Daily Reporter added.

During the course of its investigation, the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) said Wells earned more than $1.8 million from the sports betting operation. More than 176,000 bets were made beginning in 2016, and continued until the operation was closed.

Judge Agrees to Suppress Evidence

But during the course of the case, Wells’s attorney, James H. Voyles, was able to successfully suppress some of the evidence compiled against Wells, including evidence gained during a search of Wells’s pickup truck.

During the search, state investigators seized a cellphone that had texts linked to alleged gamblers, authorities said.

But the language used in a search warrant did not permit the evidence to be presented in court, and it was unconstitutional, Voyles successfully argued. The truck was not at the location specified in the search warrant, the Daily Reporter said. Authorities failed to get a separate search warrant for the truck, the report adds.

In May 2019, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a new gambling bill that allowed sports wagering. The law followed a landmark US Supreme Court decision that permitted sports wagering nationally.

Indiana Casino Regulators Reject Settlement Offer

In other gambling-related news from Indiana, the IGC last month rejected a proposed settlement for a Terre Haute casino license.

Businessman Greg Gibson had appealed the IGC’s decision to not renew his company’s license for a casino in his hometown. He offered to settle the case with the IGC. The commissioners, however, voted to reject that proposal.

The IGC is moving forward with finding a new company to take over the license, pending the outcome of the appeal.

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