A 36-year-old Beverly man has become the first person in Massachusetts charged with violating a 2006 federal law that restricts Internet gambling, according to federal prosecutors.
Todd Lyons was arrested Thursday night on a 36-count indictment that alleges he collected more than $22 million illegally as the primary agent in the state for Sports Offshore, an Internet gambling site licensed in the Caribbean island of Antigua, authorities said. The illegal activity allegedly took place from 1997 until his arrest.
Prosecutors say that Sports Offshore used an Internet site and toll-free telephone number registered in Antigua, but that the operation was actually based in the United States.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was signed by President George W. Bush, bars Americans from using electronic fund transfers, credit cards, and checks to place bets with gambling sites worldwide. The law holds banks and credit companies responsible for enforcement.
The office of US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said Lyons is one of the first people in the country charged with breaking the law and the first in Massachusetts.
He faces multiple charges, including racketeering, money laundering, and operating an illegal gambling business.
“The conduct alleged in this case reveals a blatant effort to circumvent gaming and tax laws,’’ Ortiz said in a statement. “The notion that the type of activity alleged here is legal because it is conducted over the Internet from offshore is pure fiction.’’
Lyons was released on a $200,000 secure bond, said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for Ortiz. He is due to appear in US District Court on June 21.
Lyons’s lawyer, Peter Horstmann, declined to comment yesterday.
If convicted, Lyons faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the most serious charges.