A Salt Lake man accused of running the state's largest bookmaking ring has been placed on three years' probation after pleading guilty to a federal gambling charge.
U.S. District Judge David Sam on Friday rejected prosecutors' request for a prison term, instead sentencing Joseph L. Goott to 180 days of home confinement.Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Parry said Goott laundered more than $3 million from the gambling operation into a diamond business during the last three years.
"He essentially was forcing honest businessmen to compete with money obtained from ill-gotten gains," Parry said. "He has gotten off lightly - he also was laundering money."
Goott, 34, and co-defendant James Katsanevas ran the bookie operation out of an American Fork office, taking bets on local and national sporting events, prosecutors said.
Goott was charged in a two-count indictment with running a bookie operation and laundering money last October - seven months after police raided several businesses in Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Katsanevas, who pleaded guilty to a single gambling charge, faces sentencing before Sam on Thursday.
Investigators said they seized nearly $2 million in cash and property in the April 16 raid, including a dozen cars, weapons, diamonds, gold and a Sandy home. So far, no other charges have been filed.
As part of a plea agreement, Goott and Katsanevas agreed to forfeit personal assets worth more than $300,000 in jewelry, furniture, cash, computers and cars they allegedly purchased with gambling assets.
No additional fines were imposed against Goott.
"He grew up in Montana where poker and gambling occurred on a daily basis, legally," said defense attorney Walter F. Bugden. "He did not attach an evil connotation to gambling, and he is not alone in that regard."
"It all started out as fun and games with a group of friends and then it got out of hand," said Goott. "I got out before the government came in with the raid . . . It was a relief to be out of it."