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Man who organized illegal sports betting operation fined $35K

Ernest DePonte gets largest fine of defendants sentenced so far in the case

WAILUKU — A Kahului man with prior gambling convictions was ordered to pay fines totaling $35,000 for his role as an organizer of an illegal sports betting operation.

Ernest DePonte, 77, also was placed on four years’ probation when he was sentenced Tuesday.

In imposing the sentence, 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill followed a plea agreement recommending no additional jail and probation for DePonte. The agreement also called for forfeiture of all items seized in the investigation.

DePonte had pleaded no contest to first-degree promotion of gambling and being a felon in possession of a firearm, with other charges dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Cahill said he was ordering the maximum fines the court could impose.

“It does appear that such a fine is warranted,” Cahill said.

“The Legislature generally frowns on fines,” he said. “However, in this case, I think it is the appropriate sentence.”

Cahill said he hoped DePonte would learn a lesson.

“The last time he got caught for the same offense, he was fined $1,500,” Cahill said. “It needs to substantially increase at this point.”

According to court records, DePonte was sentenced in 2012 to the fine and five years’ probation for first-degree promotion of gambling and possessing a gambling device after police reported seizing cash and records indicating that he was running a sports bookmaking operation in 2008.

In his more recent case, DePonte was among 23 people arrested and charged in connection with the betting operation from Oct. 3 to Dec. 21, 2015.

Defense attorney Michael Green said there was an issue over police seizure of antique guns that were on the wall of DePonte’s residence when police executed search warrants there. Green said the guns weren’t taken when police executed search warrants at the home years ago.

The defense agreed to the forfeiture of about $70,000 in cash that was seized in the latest case, Green said.

Judge Cahill also said he was concerned that DePonte was taking advantage of his elderly mother, who signed a bail receipt for him.

“That’s bordering on elder abuse and you know it as well as I do,” Cahill said. “That’s inexcusable, that’s horrible. You don’t take advantage of your parents like that. It’s just not right.”

The fines were the largest that Cahill has ordered for defendants who have been sentenced so far in the cases.

Green said afterward that the outcome was good for DePonte, who was described by police as the main participant in the gambling operation.

“I think it was a good resolution on both sides,” Green said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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