Brindisi, March 4 - Brindisi financial police arrested 19 people and seized assets worth 19 million euros in the southern region of Puglia on Monday in an investigation into alleged money-laundering through video-poker and online gambling to finance the locally-based Sacra Corona Unita (SCU) mafia. Assets seized include a premium villa, automobiles, buildable land, 190,000 euros for presumed tax-crimes, and roughly 15 million euros for stakes and company assets in two businesses involved in collecting authorized bets, online gambling, and the distribution of video-poker machines. One of the companies investigated is a major operator in online gambling, with more than 1,000 affiliated centers in Italy and a turnover of over 300 million euros. Defendants face charges of money-laundering, transferring large sums abroad, using illegally-obtained proceeds fraudulent bankruptcy and the emission of false invoices. Among those arrested is Albino Prudentino, 61, who is believed to be a high-ranking member of the SCU. Prudentino is alleged to have used dummy-names, professionals and accomplice-companies who were given the task of reinvesting alleged illegal gains of the SCU into the local economy. Prudentino was originally stopped for racketeering and drug-trafficking in September 2010 in Albania, where he was about to inaugurate a casino. He was extradited to Italy in January 2011. The arrests were ordered by a Lecce prosecutor.
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di Giovanni Pastore