Suspected ring leaders of an underground lottery operation were indicted Thursday on charges of illegal gambling and money laundering in a scheme police say may have netted $48 million over five years.
According to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, Prasert Somsinsawasdi, 59, and his wife, Noy Somsinsawasdi, 46, ran the Sacramento-area lottery operation out of residences, Asian markets and small video stores, none of which were licensed lottery retailers.
Karen Ernst, an FBI spokeswoman, said the Somsinsawasdis recruited Asian-American business owners to run the lottery. Bettors placed their wagers in stores and homes and received tickets made of handwritten numbers on carbon paper, she said.
According to an affidavit reviewed by The Sacramento Bee, police said individual bets usually ranged from $5 to $100, and tickets with all three winning numbers paid out at 800 to 1. Store owners were paid 10 percent of bets taken at their businesses. The ringleaders collected about $800,000 a month, according to the affidavit.
Four others were indicted Thursday in connection with the lottery operation. The U.S. attorney's office alleged Chao Lee, 32; Soukuane Saelee, 48; Mouang Saelee, 44; and La Soukasene, 41, were all major sellers of the lottery tickets. If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
The Somsinsawasdis each face 20 years and $500,000 in fines.