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FARGO: Betting operator says case isn’t over

FARGO – The founder of North Dakota’s first off-track betting business remained upbeat Friday after she was convicted of running an illegal gambling parlor.

Jurors in federal court found Susan Bala guilty on 12 felony counts, but the Racing Services owner said she had no regrets about going to trial instead of negotiating a plea.

“The case isn’t over,” a smiling Bala said as she left the courtroom.

Later, she told reporters that she had dealt with the deaths of her parents and serious illness in her family.

“There’s many things in life that come to you that you have to stand up to. And in my heart, I still feel good, and I’m at peace with myself,” she said. “That’s been the most important thing to me. This is one of these things that comes up that you have to deal with, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Convictions

Bala and her company, Racing Services, were convicted of conducting an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to conduct an illegal gambling business, illegal wire transfer and nine counts of money laundering.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours.

Bala’s attorney, Mark Beauchene, said after the verdict that the parties in the case were told by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson not to talk to the media. But Bala told reporters outside the courthouse that she “still feels we did the right thing by coming to this trial.”

Tamara Sedlacek, Bala’s sister, said she was shocked at the verdict but said her sister feels good about sticking to her convictions.

“She’s very strong,” Sedlacek said.

U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said he would not comment until after a hearing Monday to determine whether Bala must forfeit property and money. The government is asking for $99 million, the amount of money investigators said was bet at the illegal Fargo parlor from October 2002 to April 2003.

Each of the nine money laundering charges carries a maximum charge of 20 years in prison. The other three counts have a combined maximum penalty of 12 years in prison.

Racing Services was the first company licensed to provide broadcast signals from out-of-state horse races to betting parlors in North Dakota, but it was not licensed to run its own betting parlor, authorities said.

Bala, 50, of Fargo, helped start the company in 1989 and later became its sole owner. Her trial began Jan. 18.

She spent two days testifying in her own defense, contending state racing rules were vague and that her employees did not keep her informed about problems at the Fargo site. She also said she thought the site was being used for Internet gambling, which would not require payment of state taxes. More about Agen Poker Online

Boyfriend turns

Racing Services was run by Bala and her former boyfriend, Raymundo Diaz Jr., 39, who was its vice president. An hour before her trial started, he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to conduct an illegal business and illegal wire transfers and agreed to testify against Bala.

The state has charged Racing Services, Bala, Diaz and Diaz’ company, Global Contact Inc., with one count each of illegal gambling. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Friday he would continue with that case.

“We are not going to dismiss them in light of this verdict,” Stenehjem said.

Last month, Racing Services was one of five off-track betting sites named in an 88-count federal indictment in New York. It alleged the sites were part of an illegal gambling ring that processed more than $200 million in bets over four years. Seventeen defendants, including an alleged member of the Gambino crime family, have pleaded not guilty in the New York case.