Wednesday September 11,2013 : WAS U.S. LAWMAKER COLLABORATING WITH ILLEGAL GAMBLING DEFENDANT?
Federal wiretap exposes an interesting conversation
A Pennsylvanian politician is currently defending his reputation after a federal sting investigation and wiretap exposed a telephone conversation with an illegal sports betting operator that appears to suggest the suppression of a problem gambling complaint, according to widespread mainstream media reports in the US Tuesday.
Pennsylvania Representative Marc Gergely, a Democrat from Allegheny, gave his side of the story to the House Democratic Caucus on Monday, saying that last November he was in receipt of a letter from a constituent complaining that her husband had squandered the family money on illegal gambling.
The politician said that he tried to refer the woman to Gamblers Anonymous and to state troopers who investigate gambling complaints, but his staff couldn't reach her because she didn't have voicemail.
He did not at that stage know that the "complainant" was actually an undercover state investigator.
State investigators say that Gergely was subsequently overheard on a wiretap telling the suspected ringleader of an illegal gambling operation that he would conceal the complaint about video poker machines.
They allege that he called Ronald "Porky" Melocchi (54) the target of the gambling investigation, to tell him about the complaint, and that he promised Melocchi, who is charged with running an illegal video poker operation through his Back Alley Vending firm, that he would not pass the complaint along to authorities.
Court documents show that Melocchi asked whether the complaint would be turned over to the state police's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, to which Gergely responded:
"Who me? Not me. I just want to take care of you. She obviously has no idea that we have a connection. Maybe you guys can identify … who the guy is and get him stopped … before something becomes a problem, OK?"
The court papers show that Melocchi, local police chief Mark Holtzman, local Councilman Daniel K. Carr, two former McKeesport police officers and 11 others are to be charged in the gambling ring.
Investigators raided 70 bars, homes, banks and other locations in December, seizing 350 poker machines and about $1 million, according to court documents.
Melocchi faces a preliminary hearing Thursday this week; it is claimed that he has donated $3,000 to Gergely's election campaigns since 2006, but the lawmaker said he has since donated a similar amount to Positive Pathways, a for-profit Pittsburgh business that helps people with gambling addictions.
Gergely's statement to Caucus said his office has cooperated with investigators including providing dates and times his staff tried to contact the woman about her complaint.