May 2, 2001 3:25 AM

The NCAA, CBS and Mastercard top the list of high-profile defendants in a $1 billion lawsuit filed by a Springfield, Ill., woman and her brother against Internet betting sites in Venezuela.

The pair are asking that the lawsuit, filed in federal court under the RICO anti-racketeering statute, be declared a class action on behalf of bettors who lost playing on 24 online sites, which they claim are illegal in that South American country, as they are in the U.S.

An attorney for one of the plaintiffs, David L. Crocker of Coral Springs, Fla., who once published a newspaper in Venezuela, claimed his client was threatened anonymously and harassed by Venezuelan authorities after his newspaper launched an investigation into the gambling sites.

Among those named as defendants are Cedric Dempsey, the executive director of the NCAA, Viacom International, owner of CBS Sports, CBS Sports President Sean McManus,, Bank of America Corp., Mastercard International Corp. and Canadian-based online gaming operator Starnet Communications.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants violated a host of anti-racketeering, fraud and conspiracy laws by allowing access or otherwise promoting or sharing in the profits from the betting sites.