Mon Valley playing arrests mirror historic mob connections

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Roots of an ancient crime syndicate household tree have resurfaced in a gambling case within the Mon Valley, a local rich with subculture of mobsters cozying up to public officers.

Some individuals of a million-dollar playing ring state authorities busted closing week have direct links to Pittsburgh’s former La Cosa Nostra, a Tribune-evaluation investigation discovered.

ities charged 16 americans, focused on a businessman they said bought into the online game through a deceased affiliate of the LaRocca-Genovese corporation. Prosecutors charged the sons of two former mob associates and a key lieutenant, in line with daftar poker court docket data and stories of the previous Pennsylvania Crime fee.

“The sons absolutely did not fall too removed from the tree,” stated Roger Greenbank, a retired FBI particular agent who helped dismantle the Pittsburgh Mafia.

ities broke the Pittsburgh Mafia with excessive-profile federal convictions in the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties, together with circumstances towards underboss Charles “Chucky” Porter and his precise lieutenant, the late Louis Raucci Sr.

Deaths and attrition of inducting members additionally performed a task within the death, Greenbank pointed out. not like the historic days, these nonetheless within the video game operate independently devoid of paying tributes, or kickbacks, to the mob, he observed.

“there is no actual constitution anymore. there’s no actual family,” referred to Greenbank, now employed with the aid of the state gambling manage Board. “or not it’s long gone in Pittsburgh.”

Yet that past casts long shadows.

Prosecutors on Sept. 5 charged Ronald “Porky” Melocchi, 54, of West Newton with heading an illegal poker operation that dabbled in numbers and activities having a bet rackets. They declare he did so through a McKeesport storefront that allegedly functioned as an illegal casino, and through returned Alley vending, a Glassport business authorities talked about poker online he bought from Primo Mollica, a Pittsburgh mob affiliate who controlled illegal gambling within the Mon Valley except his dying in 2001.

“He changed into an important bookmaker and gambler,” Greenbank referred to of Mollica.

Melocchi wasn’t interested in discussing the case.

“I don’t have any comment, thanks,” he referred to upon answering the cell investigators tapped final yr.

In 1976, federal authorities busted Mollica and 13 others, together with a former mayor and a Justice of the Peace, for taking part in a $three million-a-year playing ring founded in Clairton, McKeesport, Glassport and Elizabeth.

just earlier than Mollica’s 5-yr probation ended, Pittsburgh police in 1981 again arrested him for running a activities-making a bet enterprise from a Squirrel Hill house.

In 1983, New Jersey State Police raided a collection at Caesars Boardwalk Regency on line casino resort in Atlantic city and arrested Mollica for running a multimillion-dollar, nationwide unlawful sports-publication operation.

When state prosecutors filed expenses ultimate week in Melocchi’s case, Mollica’s son, Kirk, forty six, became among those arrested. He declined to remark when reached at his Elizabeth home.

court statistics checklist Kirk Mollica’s M&M coffee shop in Glassport on the Monongahela Boulevard handle of Melocchi’s again Alley merchandising, which operated out of a storage on okayWay. okay top Investments in 1988 bought the property from Primo Mollica, county actual estate statistics reveal. State records record Kirk Mollica as ok prime’s president.

extra family unit ties

Others charged within the case with ties to the former Pittsburgh crime household encompass Rodney Iannelli, fifty three, of Ohio Township and Jeffrey Risha, 59, of Belle Vernon. Prosecutors in 2000 arrested Risha for his involvement in a Fayette County poker indonesia sports having a bet and unlawful lottery ring connected to considered one of Pittsburgh’s final made mobsters, Thomas “Sonny” Ciancutti, 84, of recent Kensington.

Iannelli and Risha couldn’t be reached for remark.

Iannelli’s father, Robert “Bobby I” Iannelli, 83, ran activities-betting and numbers rackets in reference to the Pittsburgh household, the crime commission said.

In his autobiography, “where the evidence Leads,” former governor and U.S. lawyer established Dick Thornburgh talked about the first successful wiretaps utilized in Western Pennsylvania took down Robert Iannelli’s gigantic sports-having a bet ring in 1970 and resulted in the primary prosecutions under the organized Crime handle Act the following year.

an extra mob connection to the Melocchi case surfaced in December when investigators raided 70 places and seized greater than $1 million. among the places searched was the Clairton domestic of Joe Nistico, 73, who changed into now not charged.

Greenbank stated Nistico is the nephew of the Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo Scarfo, who got here to Western Pennsylvania in 1986 to satisfy with Pittsburgh gangsters because Nistico complained they wanted half of his activities-publication business.

Nistico couldn’t be reached for comment.

On Porky’s trail

In 2008, interior salary service agents and state police visited Melocchi as a part of yet another investigation. on the time, he mentioned having as many as 400 illegal video gambling machines and observed he introduced in up to $900.”000 a year from those and legal machines equivalent to pool tables, jukeboxes and video video games, court documents state.

Two years ago, state investigators began concentrated on the espresso Pot, Melocchi’s former Sixth highway enterprise in McKeesport that authorities declare grew to become a crossroads of illegal video poker, numbers and activities making a bet.

When he wasn’t aware investigators were listening in October and November 2012, Melocchi discussed plans to launch an extra playing business for his sons and others in his circle, fearing his 70-location operation become getting too huge, transcripts revealed.

“Yinz all can make a payday,” he referred to during a taped call mentioned in a 134-web page arrest affidavit.

In another conversation, investigators recorded Melocchi saying he wanted to mimic the business practices of John “Duffy” Conley, Western Pennsylvania’s former video poker king, who spent more than a decade in reformatory for gambling convictions.

“it’s what Duffy used to do,” Melocchi informed an informant. “You kind satellite tv for pc operations. each person works out of the equal hub, however nobody basically is aware of that.”

Conley, 50, of Robinson observed he didn’t comprehend Melocchi however had heard of him.

“They agree with i was the greatest and had too many machines, and that’s why they went after me,” talked about Conley, whom authorities as soon as accused of having four.”000 machines.

McKeesport connections

The risks of unlawful playing include operating the operations with out oversight to offer protection to patrons. The unwell-gotten, untaxed proceeds frequently pay for political influence, referred to state investigators.

“you probably have cash of this magnitude, it regularly leads to different complications,” mentioned Joe Peters, the legal professional ordinary’s spokesman and former federal mob prosecutor.

Wiretaps recorded Melocchi bragging about his connections with McKeesport’s administration and police force.

“I do whatever thing I want in that city,” Melocchi informed an informant in July 2012, according to an affidavit.

asked if that fact is true, McKeesport Solicitor Jason Elash noted, “fully no longer.”

during the last two years, Melocchi and his family unit donated $4.”050 to the campaign of Mayor Mike Cherepko, who denies the money bought affect. Melocchi donated thousands to different Mon Valley Democrats, including state Sen. James Brewster, a former McKeesport mayor, and Reps. Marc Gergely of White Oak, bill Kortz of Dravosburg and Ted Harhai of Monessen. All said they back the money or donated it to charity.

Investigators charged three former McKeesport cops in connection with Melocchi’s operation, including forward police Chief Mark Holtzman.

Ronald “Eke” Prest, a former McKeesport police sergeant, become Melocchi’s companion at returned Alley vending, authorities stated.

Prest referred questions to his lawyer, although he could not supply an lawyer’s name.

“I don’t even be aware of,” referred to Prest, 65, of White Oak.

among the first locations authorities raided in December changed into Viking Lounge, a McKeesport establishment owned through metropolis Councilman Daniel Carr — who sneaked out the lower back door as brokers filed in the entrance. He faces prices and did not return calls in search of remark.

Melocchi believed the bust was politically encouraged and that it had to do with Carr.

“Dan is an outstanding friend, and Dan is getting effective,” Melocchi told an informant. “And along with his powerfulness, he created lots of enemies, and that’s part of the problem.”