71-year-old hopes to finalise long-running case without losing his property
Charges against a 71-year-old Wilkes-Barre bar owner in Pennsylvania of facilitating online sports betting are nearing finalisation following negotiations on a lesser felony.
The legal representatives of bar owner Patrick Patte Jnr., filed a guilty plea to an illegal gambling charge of transmitting wagering information using wire communications, which replaced an earlier conspiracy accusation, according to court documents filed Thursday.
U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo immediately sealed the document, leaving the terms of Patte's deal with the prosecutors unclear.
Plea agreements with two other men charged in the betting ring, bar manager Mark G. Fino and Christopher Marion, have similarly remained under seal since they were signed in April.
All three pleas are likely to remain sealed until sentencing next week, local media reported.
Federal prosecutors have linked the betting ring arrests to a wide-ranging public corruption probe that has led to charges against 30 people since January 2009, including three Luzerne County judges, commissioners in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, and five school board members.
The prosecutors have claimed that Patte's Sports Bar was a pivotal element in the online betting operation, which involved wagering by gamblers who accessed an Internet betting site with code names and passwords.
Winnings were distributed and losses collected at the bar and other locations between January 2009 and February 2010, federal prosecutors have alleged.
Local newspapers report that federal investigations were triggered early 2009 when an informant reported the internet gambling activity. Undercover agents apparently placed several bets on the site Willtobet.com, a website that is no longer active.
In a subsequent police action, some $90 000 and computerised betting records were reportedly seized, and recorded conversations were filed. In February this year the US Attorney’s Office lodged an application for the forfeiture of the Patte’s Bar building on grounds that it had been used to facilitate illegal internet sports betting.
It is unknown if the forfeiture order is to stand in light of the guilty pleas and negotiations, which are understood to have taken three months to finalise.