Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet financed a nationwide sports gambling ring in which about a half dozen current NHL players placed bets, authorities said Tuesday.
Tocchet, a former NHL star, was served with a criminal complaint Monday and was expected to travel from his Arizona home to answer charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy, state police Col. Rick Fuentes said.
Fuentes said an investigation into the New Jersey-based ring discovered the processing of more than 1,000 wagers, exceeding $1.7 million, on professional and college sports, mostly football and basketball. He declined to identify the NHL players who made wagers, but said none bet on hockey.
Authorities said Tocchet and state police Trooper James J. Harney were partners in the operation, with the ex-NHL forward providing the financing.
"Tocchet received illegal sports bets from wagers and funneled money back to New Jersey," Fuentes said.
Messages left with the Coyotes were notimmediately returned. The Coyotes were home Tuesday night againstChicago.
Tocchet, one of three associate coacheson the Coyotes' staff, took over the head coaching duties for 10days in December while Wayne Gretzky was away to be with his dyingmother.
The 41-year-old Tocchet played 18 yearswith six teams, including three seasons with the Coyotes from1997-00. He spent most of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers,from 1984-92 and again in 2001-02. He is one of only two players inNHL history to collect 400 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes duringhis career.
Harney, 40, was arrested Monday and hasbeen suspended from the force. The eight-year police veteran wascharged in an arrest warrant with official misconduct, promotinggambling, money laundering and conspiracy. Another man accused oftaking bets is James A. Ulmer, 40, who was charged with promotinggambling, money laundering and conspiracy.
Both men were free after posting 10percent of their bail. Harney had $100,000 bail; Ulmer had $50,000bail. The two men were expected to be arraigned in state SuperiorCourt in Burlington County within two weeks.
The state police investigation into thering started in October 2005 after authorities received a tip onHarney's sports wagering activities from his New Jersey home, andtaking phone calls during his patrol job based out of the agency'sMoorestown station, Fuentes said.
"We used another trooper acting in anundercover capacity to place a bet with Harney," Fuentes said. OnceHarney took the bait, the investigation was under way, hesaid.
Over the course of the investigation,state police found wagers placed by about half a dozen current NHLplayers and from someone Fuentes described as a "movie celebrity,"all of whom have been interviewed as part of the investigation.Fuentes did not disclose their names, saying the investigation wasongoing.
Fuentes said the hockey players bet onfootball and basketball games, not hockey.
The gambling ring had a connection withorganized crime in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, Fuentessaid.
He said charges against more individualswere possible.