Haden Ware, the indicted co-founder of defunct online gambling site World Sports Exchange (WSEX), has returned to US shores to face the music.
The Associated Press reported that Ware (pictured) appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Thursday to plead guilty to conspiracy in connection with his role in running WSEX. Ware reportedly returned to the US from Antigua on Wednesday, the first time his feet had touched US soil since he was indicted in 2002.
The 40-year-old Ware admitted his guilt to US Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV, saying he “took wagers over the internet and over interstate lines.” Ware was released on $150k bail pending a sentencing hearing on May 9. Under a plea deal, Ware has agreed not to contest a sentence of less than one year, but Ware’s attorney Jim Henderson said he would push for a non-custodial sentence.
US authorities brought the first set of charges against WSEX a couple years after the company was founded in 1996. Ware and co-founder Steve Schillinger opted to remain in WSEX’s home base of Antigua, where Schillinger was found dead in 2013 of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Publicity-hungry co-founder Jay Cohen embarked on an ill-advised plan to make himself the online sports betting industry’s white knight by returning to the US in 2000 to contest his charges in court. To no one’s (except perhaps Cohen’s) surprise, the courts found Cohen guilty and he spent 17 months in federal prison.
Following his release in 2004, Cohen resumed his involvement with WSEX, even bragging about it in an interview with CNBC, despite this involvement violating the terms of his parole. But WSEX quickly showed signs of instability, slow-rolling customers’ withdrawal requests until the sorry business shut down for good in April 2013. Schillinger was found dead later that same month.
Cohen’s whereabouts are currently unknown, but US authorities would likely be eager to slap a fresh set of handcuffs around his fleshy wrists if they could find him. In 2014, an irate Ohio man who lost $70k when WSEX went belly-up reportedly enlisted private investigators to track down assets Cohen may have stashed around the globe prior to switching WSEX’s lights off.