Five-time winner of the Hermosa Beach Ironman competition, Jeff Bellandi, was sentenced last week to three years probation including eight months of house arrest for his role in a criminal gambling and money laundering ring.
Bellandi, also a co-owner of Waterman's on Pier Plaza, reportedly served as a bookmaker for Owen "O-dog" Hanson, a Redondo Union High School graduate and former USC football player, who faces a minimum of 20 years in prison. Bellandi pled guilty in January to operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering, though none of the charges traced back to the popular Hermosa Beach bar.
According to federal prosecutors with the Southern District of California, Bellandi set up a shell corporation and laundered roughly $4.1 million in cash for Hanson that was obtained through illegal gambling proceeds and narcotic sales.
Hanson, 34, who pled guilty to drug trafficking, operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering, will be sentenced Sept. 25, according to court documents. Hanson and Bellandi were arrested in 2015 along with 20 other individuals for their involvement in an organized crime ring led by Hanson.
According to an indictment presented in the lead up to their plea agreements, prosecutors detailed a criminal operation complete with drug trafficking, physical assaults and intimidation. The colorful gang included a dealer named "Tank," an enforcer named "Animal" and a private detective. Bellandi, nicknamed "Jazzy," has won the Hermosa Beach Ironman five out of the past six years.
Hanson was not above physical violence and intimidation to further his enterprise. In one instance, Hanson sent Jack “Animal” Rissell to Minnesota to assault a client who owed gambling debts, according to the document.
In another, men working for Hanson sent an individual a video that included a mock beheading with the message, "If you don't pay us our money this will happen to you." That individual reportedly owed Hanson $2.5 million. It was this individual, detailed in a Rolling Stone report, that reportedly led investigators to the crime ring.
The story gained widespread national attention at the time of Hanson's arrest with a lengthy report by Vice and other media. In all, tens of millions of dollars were earned and laundered using various shell corporations in the United States, Central and South America and Australia, prosecutors said.
An unlikely crime boss, Hanson, the clean-cut 6-foot, 2-inch tall athlete who played for USC football as a walk-on tight end in 2004 reportedly used his connections with professional athletes and Las Vegas high-rollers to amass a business that earned tens of millions of dollars.
Bellandi joined a handful of others in the group as a bookmaker—taking bets, collecting debts and distributing winnings. Hanson was working with other individuals to distribute cocaine and ecstasy, according to prosecutors. In one instance, they said, Hanson instructed a colleague to send five grams of cocaine and 15 capsules of ecstasy to a professional football player who was then located in Nashville, Tennessee. No details on the identity of the player were revealed.
According to the indictment, prosecutors worked with an undercover agent to nail Hanson on the drug trafficking charges. Hanson was arrested in September 2015 after instructing another individual to deliver more than five kilograms of cocaine to an undercover agent in San Diego.
Raised in Redondo Beach, Hanson worked in the real estate business following his time at USC as he developed his organized crime ring. While Hanson had homes in Mexico and Costa Rica, the home he built in Redondo Beach featured a lap pool, a "tequila room" and ornate wall decor that included a silver-plated AK-47, according to Rolling Stone.
As part of the plea agreement, Hanson agreed to forfeit the house in Redondo Beach along with $5 million and all other property obtained through illegal revenue. All but one of the individuals arrested as part of the crime ring has pled guilty. That individual awaits trial in September.