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Accused leader of illegal gambling ring folds

7:13 PM, Oct 26, 2009   |    comments
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Jeff Castardi admitted he violated the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act and now faces eight to 24 years in prison when he's sentenced in December for a class-two felony.

The gambling club, which operated inside the "Gin Rummy Club" on South Broadway in Denver, claimed to be a social club.

Instead, 9Wants to Know and The Denver Post learned earlier this year that around 100 high rollers won or lost as much as $10,000 a hand in Texas Hold 'em games that sometimes lasted for days.

Some of the players fell so deeply into debt, they owed Castardi tens of thousands of dollars, which partly led two gamblers to commit suicide, 9Wants to Know learned.

Agents with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said Castardi used intimidation and threats, saying he knew members of the mafia, in order to collect from gamblers.

The money was laundered through two restaurants owned or operated by Castardi and his wife, Dawn Wolf, according to an indictment. Winners were paid out at local coffee shops with cash in envelopes.

"Castardi and his co-defendants were suspected of violating numerous provisions of state law, including running an illegal professional gambling and bookmaking business, loan-sharking, money laundering, tax evasion, theft and unlawful debt collection," Mike Saccone, communications director of the office of the Colorado Attorney General, said.

Two of the players were former Denver Broncos players Reggie Rivers and Rod Bernstine. Both men told 9NEWS they did not know gambling was illegal in Denver.

None of the gamblers were charged in the law enforcement operation.

However, Castardi, Wolf and several other associates were indicted with multiple felonies including organized crime in February after a law enforcement operation dubbed "Operation Aces and Eights" shut down the ring in February.

Wolf pleaded guilty earlier to one count of running an illegal gambling operation and was setenced to four years of supervised deferred judgement.

If you have any news tips, please e-mail Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com.

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