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50 arrested in a 4-state gambling ring

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The Lucchese crime family lost serious cash flow this week when New York and New Jersey authorities arlested 59 people and closed down 17 "wire rooms" in a four-state sports gambling operation, Attorney General Dennis Vacco said Friday.

Vacco estimated the ring's yearly take at as much as $1 billion and said he has begun filing lawsuits seeking to seize the profits and assets reaped by the ring.Raiders with search warrants hit 31 sites in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday, culminating a six-month investigation started by New Jersey state police, Vacco said.

"Gambling and loansharking are the lifeblood of organized crime," Vacco said. "We've shut down a major pipeline of income for the Lucchese crime family."

His announcement came three days after Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes disclosed Operation Slam Dunk, his office's roundup of a New York-Philadelphia ring that he said booked $160 million a year.

Hynes and Vacco both said their roundups came at a peak time for illegal betting, the annual NCAA college basketball championships.

Police seized financial records, $100,000 in cash, five cars, two guns, and a number of fax and telephone machines and computers that kept the sophisticated operation up to the minute with Las Vegas betting odds.

"We've only begun our search for the assets," Vacco said, referring to cash and other items.