The New Jersey authorities report the arrest of 28 persons this week, accused of involvement in a 'Mafia-run' sports gambling ring that handled more than $1 million in illegal wagers each week.

A total of 34 people have been charged for their roles in the ring, 28 of whom were swept up during a series of raids across North Jersey and Westchester County that began Tuesday, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said. Detectives executed 20 search warrants that netted $1.2 million in the raids, a report in the publication JerseyNorth added.

Four other defendants turned themselves in today and were brought to Superior Court in Hackensack with the 28 who were arrested. All pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling. Five were charged with racketeering.

Prosecutors claim that the ring was divided into separate bookmaking and money laundering operations, one led by John “Blue” DeFroscia (48), a reputed soldier in the Genovese crime family, and the other headed by an alleged family associate, Thomas Conforti (44). Both men ran a large network of bookies and passed part of the profits to the Genovese crime family hierarchy, Molinelli said.

The ring employed a system of code names and passwords for gamblers to place wagers on sporting events by calling telephone numbers or visiting Web sites, he said. The “wire room” that provided the betting lines and accepted the wagers was located in Costa Rica in an effort to keep the ring beyond the reach of American authorities, Molinelli explained, without identifying specific Websites in his briefing to the press.

Bookies in the North Jersey area collected losses and paid winnings to the bettors, Molinelli said. The offenders had been under observation by investigators since last September in a project coded "Operation Strike Out".

Molinelli said there were no instances of extortion or violence in these operations, but he said bettors could be in danger if they end up owing money to the bookies.

“Organized crime has a very good collection rate,” he said. “You don’t want to be a bettor who owes money to these individuals.”

He added that no bettors had been arrested, but he said he hoped the sweep would send a message.

“There are a lot of bettors out there that tomorrow are going to read the paper ... and are going to say, ‘You know, maybe I better really stop this,’” he said. “That’s something that we always strive for.”

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