West Hawaii News

Leader of Kona Gambling Ring Sentenced to 20 Months in Prison

August 8, 2013, 5:25 PM HST
* Updated August 9, 2:46 PM
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United States District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi has sentenced Eric Ford, proprietor of Aloha Springs Water Company in Kailua-Kona, to 20 months in prison today for managing, owning, and supervising an illegal gambling ring out of his Kona business.

Ford pleaded guilty to the charges on Feb. 21, including having structured transactions to evade reporting requirements.

According to documents filed in connection with the case, Ford ran his gambling operation from November 2009 to November 2012, taking numerous sports bets over the phone and online.

Ford reportedly also collected gambling debts, and paid out gambling winnings. According to authorities, Ford was aware of laws requiring financial institutions to report cash purchases and money orders equal to $3,000 or more.

To evade the law, Ford used small purchases at multiple institutions, structuring more than $120,000 between May 2009 and June 2012.

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As part of his plea deal, Ford forfeited $129,566 in cash and a vehicle purchased with proceeds traceable to the illegal gambling business. He also turned over a Rolex watch he received as collateral for a gambling debt owed to him.

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The items forfeited were seized by authorities on Nov. 28, 2012, while executing search warrants at his residence, business, and two safe deposit boxes.

An additional $66,339 in cash and another two vehicles have been forfeited by the other defendants in the case. In total, seven other individuals were indicted and have pleaded guilty to charges arising out of this case.

They include Marlo Banasan, 34; Matthew Phillips, 39; Kendale Limahai, 47; Jonah Yardley, 37; and Trevor Carter, 24, all arrested along with Ford on Nov. 28, 2012.

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The case was a result of a four year investigation by the Hawaii Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service.

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