HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal authorities are cracking down on illegal online sports betting in Hawaii.
Hawaii News Now has learned that about two dozen isle residents are being charged or being arrested in the probe, which centers on bets made with offshore Internet sites.
An attorney who represents several of those targeted said her clients had always believed that online betting was legal.
"This is something that people in Hawaii have been doing in Hawaii for a very long time .. forever. It includes business people, doctors, law enforcement, sales people, all kinds of people," said lawyer Megan Kau.
"Nobody would have guessed that it would come to something like this."
One of the first to be charged is Honolulu resident Terrence Ching. Ching pleaded guilty today to one count of making illegal bets and one count of filing a false tax return.
Prosecutors say Ching handled millions of dollars in online bets by acting as a go-between -- or bookie -- of Internet gaming sites based in Costa Rica.
His case provides a rare glimpse into the amount of money the business involves.
According to a criminal complaint, federal authorities seized nearly $30,000 in cash from Ching's bank account and another $330,000 that he stashed in his home.
They also seized an assortment of semi-automatic handguns and rifles, designer gold and diamond jewelry and at least five Rolex watches and confiscated $245,000 in monetary judgements -- or markers -- representing his gambling wins.
"People in Hawaii like to bet," said retired FBI agent Hilton Lui.
Lui said Internet gambling is especially addictive because it is so easy to do.
"If you were to go on Google, they would list the top sites. Some of those are Bovada, Topbet, Wagerbet," he said.
Ching faces up to two years in jail for the gambling charge, and three years for the tax charge. His sentencing is scheduled in June.