Members of Alleged Sports Betting Ring Charged with Racketeering

August 8, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 8, 2012 released the following:

“PHILADELPHIA—A 23-count indictment was unsealed today charging 16 defendants in a conspiracy case involving the Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization, a multi-million-dollar sports betting operation with bettors throughout the U.S. At its peak, the alleged organization had more than 1,000 bettors and was generating millions of dollars a year. All but one defendant (Joanna Mastronardo) are charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise (RICO) and conducting an illegal gambling business. The indictment alleges that between January 1, 2005 and January 1, 2011, the organization utilized Internet websites and telephone numbers that allowed bettors to place sports bets on football, baseball, basketball, golf, horse racing, and other sporting events. Residents of Costa Rica staffed the Internet and telephone sites. The defendants allegedly hid more than $1 million in and around their homes, including in specially-built compartments and in PVC pipes that were buried in a yard.

Charged are Joseph Vito Mastronardo, Jr. and John Mastronardo, the two alleged leaders; Joseph F. Mastronardo, Eric Woehlcke, Harry Murray, Joseph Vitelli, Anna Rose Vitelli, Patrick Tronoski, Edward Feighan, Kenneth Cohen, Schuyler Twaddle, Michael Loftus, Michael Squillante, David Rounick, Ronald Gendrachi; and Joanna Mastronardo, the wife of Joseph Mastronardo, Jr. All, with the exception of Twaddle, were arrested this morning.

The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger, FBI Special Agent in Charge George C. Venizelos of the Philadelphia Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Eric Hylton of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman.

The indictment alleges that the defendants ran the organization using telephone, Skype, e-mail, text messaging, and in-person communication. They allegedly met bettors in-person, often in public buildings and parking lots, to collect or deliver payments that ranged from $1,000 to more than $100,000. The organization also allegedly used a gas station on Norristown Road in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, as a mailing address and drop-off site to collect gambling payments.

According to the indictment, members of the Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization laundered the gambling proceeds using check cashing agencies, private bank accounts, and international bank accounts and provided instructions so that a losing bettor could pay a gambling debt through a charitable donation.

According to the indictment, leader Joseph V. Mastronardo, Jr. supervised the agents, sub-agents, websites (www.betroma.com and http://www.betrose.com), office employees; laundered some of the betting proceeds; collected debts; and instructed others to collect debts. Mastronardo’s brother, John, also a leader in the organization, supervised agents and sub-agents, laundered proceeds, and collected debts. John’s son, Joseph F. Mastronardo, worked as an office employee, collected debts, and performed other financial duties. Eric Woehlcke was initially a bookmaker and office employee, then worked as an office manager, and eventually became a leader supervising agents and sub-agents and laundering proceeds. Harry Murray was a bookmaker who resided in Florida and laundered proceeds in and outside the U.S. Joseph and Anna Rose Vitelli owned J&A Check Cashing where, in 2006, they allowed the organization to occupy an office for the illegal gambling business and which was also used to aid in the laundering of proceeds. Tronoski, Feighan, Cohen, Twaddle, Loftus, Squillante, Rounick, and Gendrachi were all bookmakers.

The indictment alleges that in March 2010, Joseph V. Mastronardo, Jr., in a conversation with bookmaker Harry Murray, commented, “Well, times like this I’m happy I’m a bookmaker,” to which Murray responded, “Me too.”

“Technology allowed the defendants to allegedly expand their gambling and money laundering operation far beyond the borders of Pennsylvania,” said Memeger. “Unfortunately for the defendants, however, we have the necessary statutory tools to investigate and prosecute those who openly flout our illegal gambling and financial reporting laws.”

“Illegal gambling and money laundering are the financial engines that help drive criminal enterprises like the one alleged today,” said Special Agent in Charge Venizelos. “The type of gambling activity charged here is illegal. These types of extensive and long-term joint investigative efforts, worked with our partners like the IRS and Montgomery County Detectives, are intended to dismantle criminal organizations that profit from illegal activities.”

“This alleged racketeering operation was anchored in Montgomery County but had tentacles spreading across the U.S. and beyond,” said D.A. Ferman. “Despite our attempt to shut it down in 2006-2007 with a Montgomery County prosecution, my office discovered that the defendants, as is alleged in the indictment, were back in business. We partnered with our federal counterparts to examine the full scope of the alleged illegal gambling operation. Today’s indictment reflects the work of many law enforcement agents across multiple agencies. These defendants tried to ‘game’ the system. Today, they crapped out.”

“The indictments announced today are the result of a significant and complex investigation,” said Special Agent in Charge Eric Hylton. “With both law enforcement and financial expertise, our agents are uniquely qualified to assist with these types of cases by following the trail of money. Our office will continue to work aggressively to identify and target illegal financial gains.”

Joanna Mastronardo is charged with one count of structuring in which it is alleged that she participated in making approximately 72 deposits in amounts less than $10,000, totaling more than $500,000 in a 12-month period.

Joseph V. Mastronardo, Jr. is charged in all 23 counts of the indictment. The remaining 14 defendants are each charged with the RICO conspiracy and with prohibition of illegal gambling. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of more than $6.3 million as alleged proceeds of the illegal enterprise.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Montgomery County Detective Bureau, and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jason P. Bologna.

An indictment or information is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

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Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Jamar Pharr Plead Guilty in Federal Court to Conspiracy to Engage in a Racketeering Enterprise and Devon Sheale Pled Guilty in Federal Court to Violence in Aid of Racketeering

August 19, 2011

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on August 18, 2011 released the following:

“Two Pittsburgh Crips Members Plead Guilty to Racketeering Charges

Additional Pittsburgh Crips Gang Member Sentenced to Prison

WASHINGTON – Two members of the Crips gang pleaded guilty today in federal court in Pittsburgh to charges of conspiring to conduct a racketeering enterprise, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Jamar Pharr, 27, of Pittsburgh, aka “Brownway,” pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in a racketeering enterprise before Senior U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Devon Shealey, 25, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty before Judge Diamond to one count of violence in aid of racketeering.

In addition, yesterday Karl Anger, 22, aka “K-Loc,” was sentenced by Judge Diamond to 58 months in prison for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, consecutive to 72 months he is currently serving on a state court conviction for an aggravated assault shooting, for a total of 130 months in prison. The shooting was also charged in the federal indictment as part of the racketeering conspiracy. Anger pleaded guilty on Jan. 19, 2011, to the federal racketeering conspiracy charge.

According to court documents, Pharr, Shealey, Anger and others participated in a pattern of racketeering activity that included robberies at gun point; attempted murders; distribution of heroin and crack cocaine; obstruction of justice and witness intimidation. The three defendants were members of different gangs in the Northside area of Pittsburgh that formed an alliance in 2003 to expand the gang’s drug trafficking territory and increase the gang’s membership to better protect their territory and profits. Members of the gang, known as the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips, maintained exclusive control over drug trafficking in these neighborhoods through continuous violence and intimidation of rivals and witnesses. Gang members supported each other through payment of attorneys’ fees and bonds, as well as payments to jail commissary accounts and support payments to incarcerated members’ families.

Gang members had violent confrontations with members of the rival Manchester OGs, and other street gangs operating in the Northside area of Pittsburgh. Members and associates obtained greater authority and prestige within the enterprise based on their reputation for violence and their ability to obtain and sell a steady supply of illegal drugs. According to court documents, the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips gang members identify themselves by wearing blue, flashing Crips gang hand signals, and using phrases such as “Cuz,” “C-Safe,” “Loc” and “G.K.”

According to court documents, Pharr was considered a respected member and leader in the enterprise. Pharr had a reputation for violence, and instructed other members and associates of the enterprise as to how to conduct the affairs of the enterprise, including how to possess and distribute firearms and controlled substances, and how to commit acts of violence and witness intimidation. Pharr also distributed controlled substances, including heroin.

Shealey and Anger were considered “gorillas” or “soldiers” for the enterprise, providing protection for the enterprise through the possession of firearms and committing acts of violence. Specifically, according to Shealey’s plea agreement, he was involved in shooting at a member of the Manchester OGs, in an effort to maintain and increase his position within the gang. According to information presented at sentencing, Anger obstructed justice when he tried to convince the victim in his assault case not to testify.

At sentencing, Pharr and Shealey each face maximum prison sentences of 20 years. Shealey is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 19, 2011, at 11:00 a.m., and Pharr on Dec. 15, 2011, at 10:00 a.m.

Pharr, Shealey and Anger are three of 26 defendants charged in February 2010 with being members of, and conducting racketeering activity through, the Brighton Place/Northview Heights Crips gang. This prosecution resulted from a Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force investigation that began in 2005. To date, 23 members or associates of the Brighton Place/ Northview Heights Crips who were charged in this indictment have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles A. Eberle and Troy Rivetti of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Kevin Rosenberg of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section. The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police; the Allegheny County, Penn., Police Department; and the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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