In Pennsylvania, a prominent Pittsburgh liquor license attorney has been charged with gambling device offences, criminal solicitation and conspiracy some eight months after being named in an affidavit that led to similar gambling-related charges being brought against a Democratic state legislator.
According to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, Louis Caputo has been arraigned and released on a non-monetary bond by district judge Tom Swan in West Deer after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing.
Investigators in the case, which is now due to be heard in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, allege that 39-year-old Caputo helped former video gambling kingpin Ronald “Porky” Melocchi illegally obtain an advantage over his competition in partnership with Marc Gergely, a member of the Pennsylvania House Of Representatives.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Bruce Beemer declared that Caputo used “his position to aid and protect the illegal gambling enterprise of one of his associates” while his office’s grand jury presentment contends that Melocchi, who once controlled hundreds of video gambling machines in roughly 70 locations throughout the Monongahela River Valley, referred to Caputo and Gergely and others as his “super PAC”.
“While other vendors could at times offer more lucrative terms in an effort to secure new “stops”, Melocchi would rely upon the character and business traits that he possessed as well as his connections to compete with these other vendors,” read the affidavit against Caputo. “Caputo served as a “perk” in the sense that he could consult with and advise prospective owners/?operators on any legal issues relative to their liquor license and/?or the placement of illegal video gambling devices within their business.”
Caputo’s attorney, Robert Del Greco, explained that authorities had contacted him last week to discuss the date and time of his client’s surrender although it is unclear why it took eight months for the Peters resident to be charged.
“Considering the nature and standard of a preliminary hearing, we waived the case to court and will address the charges in due course,” said Del Greco.
The arrests of Caputo and Gergely and 14 others followed an extensive probe dubbed “Operation Pork Chop” that led to the seizure of some 335 video gambling machines across the Pittsburgh area in December of 2012. West Newton resident Melocchi, who is the former the former police chief of Forward and a past McKeesport councilman, subsequently pleaded to three gambling-related counts and was sentenced to a decade of probation. Former McKeesport councilman Daniel Carr was also charged with having illegal gaming machines in a bar and ordered to serve 18 months on probation while current Forward police chief Mark Holtzman admitted to a misdemeanor gambling count and was fined $200.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Gergely was arrested in February and he is being charged with using his political influence to help Melocchi, who is a long-time friend of the legislator’s father, get video poker machines into various bars and other establishments.
The newspaper contends that “Operation Pork Chop” used wiretaps extensively in order to build cases against Gergely and Caputo. In one telephone call, Melocchi is heard boasting that he was bringing both men to a meeting with Teresa Ploskina, the owner of Dot’s Family Restaurant, to help convince her to accept his machines.
State officials moreover charged that Caputo used a source in the state police’s Liquor Control Enforcement office to obtain the name of the person who had filed a confidential complaint about illegal machines at the McKeesport eatery after “Caputo and Melocchi told Ploskina they had the ability to find out the identity of this person”.