Men get prison, probation in "tip of the iceberg" gambling case

(L to R) Harry Benenhaley, Lanny Ray Gunter, and Ronald Dale Spence
(L to R) Harry Benenhaley, Lanny Ray Gunter, and Ronald Dale Spence
Brett Parker
Brett Parker

Three Midlands men have been sentenced for their participation in a Columbia-area gambling business, according to the United States Attorney's Office.  

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said on Tuesday Lanny Ray Gunter II, 42, of Chapin, was sentenced to five months in prison, to be followed by five months home confinement, for his role in the gambling operation. Gunter also was ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.

Harry Bruce Benenhaley, 66, of Columbia, and Ronald Dale Spence, 61, of Irmo, both were sentenced to five years probation, including six months of home confinement, and ordered to pay fines of $2,000.

All pleaded guilty in October to conduct of an illegal gambling business. The plea agreements require the defendants to cooperate with the government and provide information that might lead to charges against others involved in gambling.

The three might not have ended up in trouble with the law if not for the killings in Irmo's upscale Ascot Estates subdivision on April 13, 2012.

Long before he became known as the lone suspect in the shocking double murder, Brett Parker was known by many in the Midlands as a bookie.

The fatal shooting of Parker's wife, Tammy, and their friend, Bryan Capnerhurst, at the Parker home turned up evidence both men were involved in sports betting.

Federal authorities joined the investigation which eventually produced the plea agreements from Gunter, Benenhaley, and Spence.

It was Gunter, according to prosecutors, who loaned Parker $5,000 to help him get started in taking bets on football, basketball, and other sports.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that between 2006 and 2012, Gunter, Benenhaley, and Spence conducted a sports gambling business located in the Columbia area.

Gunter supervised the business, provided financing when necessary, and directed the web operation, prosecutors said. Benenhaley oversaw day-to-day operations at Gunter's direction.  This included receiving and monitoring text messages early on, answering the phones, looking at daily statistics, making pick-ups and drop-offs, and later verifying information on the gambling web sites used by the organization, according to prosecutors.

Spence ran his own gambling operation that eventually merged into and shared profits with Gunter and Benenhaley, with each receiving 25 percent to Spence's 50 percent, prosecutors said. The three made use of an Irmo-area business to drop off and pick up gambling proceeds.

Sources say Gunter owns or co-owns several businesses including the Wild Hare bars in Columbia and Irmo, a T-shirt company, and a restaurant.

One law enforcement source calls Gunter "the top bookie in Columbia."

The primary betting activity took place during football and basketball seasons, but recently included more baseball, according to prosecutors. The business had 30 to 35 regular clients and 20 to 30 "spot" players.

Investigators also believe as many as a dozen more people could face similar federal or state gambling charges.

A source describes the cases revealed so far as the "tip of the iceberg."

One attorney close to the case says because of that, there are "tons of scared people" in the Columbia area.

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