Defendants in front row listen to court preceedings during Monday their arraignment in the Borgata gambling ring, in Judge Michael Donio's courtroom, Mays Landing.
(The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)
MAYS LANDING - The 24 men and women charged with taking part in a multimillion-dollar sports betting ring at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa - including the alleged ringleaders - pleaded not guilty to the charges against them at a crowded arraignment hearing Monday.
The ring, which authorities say operated out of a poker room at Borgata for 20 months, was busted in November when a multi-agency investigation, dubbed Operation High Roller, led to the arrests. State Attorney General Anne Milgram previously said the ring took in $60 million in bets, but the casino itself was not involved.
The indictment handed down in April charges the alleged leaders - Jack Buscemi Jr., 50, of Harrison Township, Gloucester County; Andrew Micali, 32, of Ventnor; and Anthony Nicodemo, 36, of Philadelphia - with racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering, as well as third-degree promotion of gambling.
Micali allegedly controlled the day-to-day operations, while Nicodemo allegedly exercised leadership over the ring. Buscemi was allegedly the boss of the gambling ring.
On Monday afternoon, the defendants were seated in several rows in Superior Court Judge Michael Donio's courtroom as their 24 defense attorneys entered the not-guilty pleas in unison to move the matter along more quickly. A sheriff's officer took attendance before the hearing to ensure everyone was present.
Thirteen other alleged operators and agents of the ring were indicted on those same four charges, including Vincent Procopio, 42, of Philadelphia, who allegedly acted as Micali's right-hand man, and two casino poker room supervisors alleged to have been agents who brought in gamblers and bets for the ring.
: Joseph Wishnick, 43, of Brigantine, a former Borgata poker room supervisor, and Jeffrey Ebert, 45, of Ventnor, a former Tropicana poker room supervisor. Eight additional defendants are named in certain counts of the indictment.
The ring took in illegal wagers on sporting events using password-protected Web sites and a Philadelphia wire room where bets were taken by phone, authorities said.
The investigation, which began in March 2006, revealed that Micali relied on a network of agents to take in millions of dollars in bets on college and professional football and basketball. Micali and Buscemi allegedly received a percentage of the gambling proceeds collected by the agents.
Deputy Attorney General Kerry DiJoseph represented the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau, Casino Prosecutions Unit.
Donio asked DiJoseph on Monday to prepare a letter for him in three weeks listing the defendants and their charges. He asked the 24 defense attorneys to also prepare individual letters, stating who the attorney represents, what the charges are and what motions the attorney has filed or plans to file.
Defense attorney Carl Poplar, who represents defendant Robert Mackie, 39, of Staten Island, N.Y., expressed concern about drafting such a letter, telling the judge it could be "problematic."
Donio repeated his time frame: Three weeks.
"How am I going to determine who's on first and who's on second?" Donio said, referring to the possible confusion with so many defendants. "(The letter) is for me. I'm not sharing it with anyone else. It's to assist me, in lieu of going through a box (of discovery)."
"I want to resolve these things in an expeditious manner," Donio said.
After entering pleas for their clients, the attorneys met in the empty courtroom next door, where they organized themselves into committees to tackle major motions together. The effort was made to avoid duplicating motions and creating unnecessary extra work.
"I don't want to read 24 motions that say the same thing," Donio said.
Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of as many as 10 years in state prison, while third-degree crimes, such as promoting gambling, carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
On Monday, Donio gave the attorneys and defendants an idea of how he views the offenses.
"These are alleged crimes of greed," Donio said. "I don't equate these (defendants) with people who sexually assault kids."
Third-degree gambling charges don't necessarily warrant jail time, he added - although a second-degree crime, like racketeering, does.
"These charges involve money," Donio said. "So, we'll talk money."
Defense attorneys expressed a similar view.
"Our view of this case is it is a gambling case and nothing more," said attorney James Leonard Jr., who is representing Nicodemo. "People that promote gambling do not belong in jail. I don't think any one of these defendants belongs in jail."
"I think the judge's comments are indicative of what you see," said attorney Lou Barbone, who is representing Micali.
DiJoseph said there is now supplemental discovery available for the attorneys to review, including videotape, transcripts of intercepted recordings and call logs.
The defendants are scheduled to appear in court again at 1:30 p.m. July 7 for a status conference.
Others charged in the indictment are:
Ian Blackman, 28, of Mays Landing: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, promoting gambling and criminal usury
Matthew Zambanini, 28, of Hockessin, Del.: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Robert Mackie, 39, of Staten Island, N.Y.: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Frank Baldino, 21, of Philadelphia: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Nicholas Caltibiano, 25, of Brigantine: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, and promoting gambling
Joseph Baldino Jr., 23, of Philadelphia: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
John Findaly, 31, of Philadelphia: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Bernard Malseed, 64, of Philadelphia: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Vincent Borgesi, 40, of Philadelphia: Promoting gambling
Russell Brown, 44, of Egg Harbor Township: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, and promoting gambling
Douglas Rubino, 30, of Philadelphia: Racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Michael Connelly, 59, of Parkville, Md.: Conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Stephen Cassansanto, 37, of Philadelphia: Conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
William DePena, 40, of Philadelphia: Conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Dominic Grande, 28, of Philadelphia: Conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Marianne Micali, 63, of Philadelphia: Conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Annie Grajales Ospina, 25, of Egg Harbor Township: Conspiracy, money laundering and promoting gambling
Mark Galasso, 24, of Philadelphia: Money laundering
To e-mail Regina Schaffer at The Press:
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Here's the latest news on the Borgata Sports Betting Ring. Twenty-four people pled not guilty on the matter, but that's what all these mafia people do, right? I can't wait to see them get away with this.
Posted by Susan Lulgjuraj at 4:20 PM