New Palestine man facing multiple gambling, theft charges

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Bret Wells

HANCOCK COUNTY — A New Palestine man ran a thriving illegal bookmaking business that took in more than $17 million in sports bets over a three-year period, including a handful of wagers on New Palestine High School’s playoff football games last fall, according to an affidavit.

Bret A. Wells, 46, 7000 block of Old Colony Drive, faces six charges relating to the enterprise, which netted him more than $1.8 million in profits, according to the affidavit filed last week by investigators from the Indiana Gaming Commission. Wells made his first appearance in Hancock County Circuit Court late last week in front of Judge Scott Sirk. 

Wells was released on a $2,500 cash bond.

Investigators describe an operation that in total made more than 176,000 betting transactions starting in January 2016. Based on information from a former business partner and surveillance by gaming commission investigators, Wells ran a busy operation that included seven agents who handled collections throughout eight counties in central Indiana. 

The former business partner, who was not identified in the court document, saw Wells counting large sums of cash earned from his gambling operation, the affidavit said. The former business partner also said he went with Wells to pick up money and that Wells handled the gambling via two websites, www.lockandloadsports.com; and, after that website shut down, www.bigdogsportswagering.com. Text messages obtained from Wells’ phone show he directed bettors to those sites and provided passwords so they could access them, according to the affidavit.

Investigators also conducted surveillance on Wells in 2018 and observed him going to bars in Indianapolis, which the business partner said Wells used as rendezvous points to collect money, according to the affidavit. Mondays and Tuesdays were "settle up" days, the affidavit said.

After observing Wells, officials received court permission to install a tracking device on Wells’s pickup truck. As investigators followed him, the surveillance revealed Wells met with numerous people for short amounts of time and exchanged packages.

The text messages revealed a network of bettors who had cordial relationships with their bookie.

"I’m sorry to say I only have 600 for you now," wrote one. "The rest will be either later in the week or next week. I apologize again."

"No worries," Wells responded.

Wells also offered to place bets on New Palestine High School’s football playoff games last fall.

On Oct. 25, the day before the Dragons’ sectional opener against Zionsville, Wells texted a group of six bettors: "I got New Pal -10 tomorrow night. Who wants it? No juice. Straight action. Take all you want."

At least two bettors took him up on the offer, one putting $200 on New Palestine to cover the spread.

Wells also offered bets on New Palestine’s games against Harrison, Michigan City and Decatur Central.

"I have probably 3,500 on NP and 700 on DC so far," he texted one bettor about the state title game against Decatur Central, according to the affidavit. The bettor put $500 on the Dragons, who defeated Decatur Central, 28-14. 

Wells faces a number of charges: a Level 5 felony count of corrupt business influence; a Level 6 felony charge of professional gambling and knowingly engaging in bookmaking; two Level 6 felony charges of promoting professional gambling; and two Level 6 felony charges of theft where the value of property is between $750 and $50,000.

The theft charges relate to equipment at Wells’s business that the former business partner said had been stolen. Officers from the Indiana State Police, the Internal Revenue Service and the gambling commission executed a search warrant at Wells Lawn Care, 20 North Depot Street, New Palestine, where possible stolen items were identified. 

The most serious charge against Wells carries a sentence of up to six years in prison 

Chief deputy prosecutor Marie Castetter said county officials take the charges against Wells seriously. She noted that a review of county files as far back as 2010 indicate this is only the second time the office filed professional gambling charges.

Castetter said the prosecutors are not aware of what future charges, if any, the will be brought against Wells or people who worked with him.

On Sunday, betting on professional and NCAA Division 1 college sporting events became legal at 13 casinos and off-track betting sites.