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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. grand jury has indicted Canadian online gambling entrepreneur Calvin Ayre, his company and three others on charges they operated an illegal Internet gambling business in the United States, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.
Ayre, who graced the Forbes magazine list of billionaires in 2006, his company Bodog Entertainment Group SA and three others were charged with running an online gambling business involving sports betting in the United States from mid-2005 until January 2012.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison. The defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering -- a charge that carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The indictment, brought in federal court in Maryland, accused the group of paying out more than $100 million in winnings to gamblers in the United States and paying for advertising to draw in customers to Bodog's website bodog.com.
"Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country," U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.
U.S. prosecutors filed to seize the company's website bodog.com.
Also charged were James Philip, David Ferguson and Derrick Maloney but prosecutors did not identify their connection to Ayre.
None of the individuals were in U.S. custody, according to a spokeswoman for Rosenstein.
Ayre said in a statement posted on his website that his business was legal and will continue to operate overseas.
"We will all look at this and discuss the future with our advisers, but it will not stop my many business interests globally that are unrelated to anything in the U.S.," he said in the statement.
The case is the latest in the Obama administration's crackdown on Internet gambling. Last year authorities seized the websites for three of the biggest online poker companies after a 2006 law was passed making most online gambling illegal.
Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky