FROM COLLEGE FOOTBALL TO INDICTED FOR RUNNING AN INTERNATIONAL DRUG + MONEY LAUNDERING OCG
Owen Hanson (aka: O-Dog)
By all appearances, Owen Hanson was doing quite well for himself.
An online magazine story touted how the former University of Southern California football player turned real estate entrepreneur had modeled his new Redondo Beach home after the Las Vegas hotels he likes to frequent, complete with a lap pool, tequila room, and sleek master bedroom in the style of The Palms Casino Resort.
Perhaps the modern home’s most unique design element was in his office — a silver-plated AK-47 sporting the Louis Vuitton luxury brand logo.
The FBI has another theory on Hanson’s success — that he was the head of an international drug-trafficking and online sports betting ring that prided itself on a violent reputation to intimidate customers into compliance.
Hanson, who likes to go by the moniker “O-Dog,” was one of 22 people named in an indictment unsealed in San Diego federal court earlier this week charging them with racketeering, operating an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to distribute drugs and money laundering.
He is accused of operating betodog.com, a gambling website managed by an associate living in Peru that allowed customers in the U.S. and elsewhere to place bets — through a stable of bookies, by calling toll-free numbers or by logging in online.
Authorities say he employed runners to gather the gambling proceeds, collectors to intimidate indebted customers, an accountant in Old Town San Diego to help him hide his money and a private investigator in Los Angeles to dig up personal information on clients when needed.
Hanson is also accused of importing, exporting and distributing hundreds of kilograms of drugs — cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy — in the U.S., Australia and elsewhere.
Hanson’s attorneys, Russell Babcock and Ryan Mardock, said in a statement that the allegations are both “surprising and spurious.”
“Mr. Hanson, a former USC football player, has never engaged in violent or intimidating conduct beyond the football field,” they said. “Time will show that many of the individuals who have made these allegations are criminals and their word (is) not credible.”
Charged alongside him as one of his alleged drug dealers is Derek Loville, a former NFL running back with two Super Bowl rings who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., according to the indictment. Another defendant, Charlie D’Agostino, identified in the indictment as a bookmaker, was Hanson’s business partner at 3Ten Development, a custom home real estate venture.
Jim Muse, also accused of working as a bookie, is the former general manager of Sycuan Casino and the current general manager of the East County casino’s golf resort. He also was once the assistant executive director of Sycuan’s gaming commission and was later the general manger of the La Posta Casino in Boulevard.
“The tribe was unaware of any illegal criminal activity,” Sycuan assistant tribal manager Adam Day said Friday. “We are very concerned with the allegations while at the same time respecting the presumption of innocence for anyone accused of a crime. If requested we will fully cooperate with the authorities.”
Hanson, 33, certainly surrounded himself with interesting people — Australian concert promoter Andrew McManus, former cage fighter Sean Carolan and notorious Sydney organized crime figure Craig Haeusler.
It was in Sydney where the case against Hanson began to unfold.
In 2011, New South Wales police responded to a call at a Sydney hotel and found a suitcase filled with $702,000 in cash. Carolan, who was Hanson’s former business partner, was in possession of the suitcase and claimed it was Hanson’s investment in a weight-loss business, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Later, the concert promoter, McManus, claimed the cash was his — proceeds from a Lenny Kravitz tour that he’d smuggled into Australia and that was going to be used to pay back Hanson for fronting money on a ZZ Top tour.
Either way, police were now investigating.
Authorities allege Hanson has smuggled large amounts of cash out of Australia. According to the indictment, he caused a professional gambler to transport $1.5 million in drug proceeds in the form of a casino check from Australia to be cashed at a casino in Las Vegas.
When the gambler refused to transport another $2.5 million, the gambler and his family were threatened, the indictment states. The alleged heavies were Daniel Portley-Hanks, the private investigator, and an alleged enforcer named Jack “Animal” Rissell. They are accused of sending to the gambler photos of him and his wife and personal biographical data on them and their family members in an attempt to intimidate him to repay $2.5 million lost gambling.
The private investigator is also accused of sending Hanson an email titled “Operation Shovel” that included a picture of a gravestone belonging to a family member of the gambler with the suggestion he would “die very soon.” Another threat came in the form of a DVD sent to the gambler showing a masked person beheading two men with a chainsaw and knife, and the message: “If you don’t pay us our money this will happen to you.”
There are also times the threats were apparently carried out, authorities said. In February 2013, Rissell is accused of assaulting a customer in Minneapolis for not repaying a gambling debt, the indictment states.
The FBI in San Diego later got involved, building a case against Hanson based on emails, wiretaps, informants and an agent who went undercover. One confidential source left the alleged bookmaking operation in 2011 on concerns of Hanson’s growing drug-trafficking activities in Mexico but went back in as an insider for the FBI, according to a search warrant affidavit. The source worked the banking and money laundering side of the operation, the affidavit said.
The San Diego agents who were investigating another sports betting ring out of Peru and Costa Rica, Macho Sports, had also begun to run into some of the same operators, authorities said.
Hanson was arrested at the Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad in September, coinciding with a takedown of Australian suspects tied to the suitcase of money. Hanson was charged at that time with coordinating the delivery of 5 kilograms of cocaine and 5 kilograms of methamphetamine. A co-defendant in Los Angeles who has since pleaded guilty delivered the drugs to an undercover agent, the indictment says.
The statements Hanson allegedly made to the undercover agent appear especially damning, including claims that he sells a kilogram of cocaine in Australia for $125,000, according to a prosecutor who spoke at Hanson’s detention hearing in September. He also is accused of asking if the agent was interested in laundering all the money he was making in Australia.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Coughlin also said Hanson, who is married to a Mexican woman, was trying to get a fake Mexican passport under an assumed name and said his wife’s family appeared to have ties to drug traffickers.
Hanson was denied bail back then, with the judge refusing Hanson’s father’s offer to put up his $1.5 million Montana home as collateral. He remains jailed.
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