Police: Illegal gambling ring worth $2.4 million

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Twenty suspects were charged last week following a months-long sweep by Rhode Island State Police. On Wednesday, Eyewitness News obtained the search warrants, which revealed just how lucrative the alleged gambling and drug operations were.

The people arrested during the investigation dubbed “Operation Free Roll” were involved in illegal sports betting, according to investigators.

State police raided The Cozy Grill restaurant in Warwick and a Narragansett home on April 12 as part of the investigation. As a result, 19 men and one woman were arrested on charges that included organized criminal gambling, bookmaking, and conspiracy.

Signed by a judge, the 17 search warrants gave detectives permission to search homes and businesses, as well as listen in on phone calls and read text messages between the suspects.

According to the documents, one gambling ring allegedly run by Cozy Grill owner Thomas Pilderian had 80 betting customers and a net value of more than $2.4 million. Investigators said the bets were placed through Pilderian’s account on a website and all sports were fair game.

Pilderian had two phone numbers police monitored, the warrants revealed. On one number, police intercepted 69 calls and texts and of those, 46 were incriminating. His co-conspirator, Mark Battista, also had two phone numbers monitored by police. Investigators intercepted 1,321 calls and texts and of those, 1,054 were found to be incriminating.

One search warrant revealed a conversation regarding a Providence College basketball game while another between Pilderian and his brother had to do with bets on a NASCAR race.

Thomas Pilderian: “He wants better odds, he’s gotta put it in.”

Jason Pilderian: “I don’t know, nothing about this [expletive] racecar [expletive]”

Thomas Pilderian: “It’s the same thing as anything, same thing as betting the football game.”

The documents showed Pilderian and Battista arranged meetings with betting customers at the Cozy Grill for the purpose of settling debts.

The sting also resulted in the bust of a $1.5 million marijuana operation. The documents revealed one text exchange with an order for 15 pounds of the drug.

Seventeen of the men involved in the gambling rings are due to face a judge in June.

Police have not ruled out the possibility of more arrests in the case.

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