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Police: Teen-age Bookie Used Imaginary Enforcer

November 22, 1991

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A 16-year-old is accused of taking thousands of dollars in sports bets from his classmates and warning them an imaginary muscle man would hunt them down if they didn’t pay up on their losses.

The high school junior, whose name was withheld because of his age, was allowed to return to school Friday, two days after his bookmaking arrest.

He was using his winnings to add to his baseball card collection, now valued at about $10,000, said Lt. Dave Green of the Broward County sheriff’s office’s organized crime division.

The teen-ager handled bets of from $20 to $3,000 from at least 10 other students on professional football and baseball games, sheriff’s spokesman Al Gordon said.

″He convinced other teens that he had an adult partner in order to intimidate them into paying their debts when they lost,″ Gordon said Friday.

″He said ’who’s going to pay off a high school kid?‴ Green explained.

The investigation started after a father discovered his son owed thousands of dollars in gambling debts and went to police.

In a meeting that was videotaped, an undercover officer posing as the debtor student’s father offered the youth $1,700 in marked bills on a $3,000 debt.

The youth was arrested Wednesday at his home in Coral Springs, an upscale suburb of Fort Lauderdale.

″He had in his possession the marked money that was given to him by an undercover detective Wednesday,″ Gordon said.

The student was allowed to return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the neighboring suburb of Parkland because his alleged activities took place off school property, school officials said.

″The student has not been suspended because there is no evidence the student has done anything to violate school policy,″ said Merrie Meyers, a spokeswoman for the Broward County School Department.

He is charged with two felony counts of bookmaking and misdemeanor counts of gambling and conspiracy, police said. None of the students who placed bets are going to be charged, authorities said.

The youth submitted a written statement Friday to assistant principals Gerald Cook and Marian Jenkins admitting he took bets.

″He never actually took any bets on or near Broward School Department property,″ said Benjamin Alcuelo, principal at Douglas.

Green said the youth’s betting activities may have run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He cautioned that the investigation is only beginning and police are uncertain how widespread the practice is.

″He may have taken in thousands a month. Two bettors at two different times bet a total of about $6,000. The whole thing since May could go into hundreds of thousands,″ Green said.

Jason Prata, 17, of Coral Springs, told local media: ″I know a dude who was making $100 bets. I know some get the money from their parents, or they sell their Nintendo or their CDs.″

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