Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Press of AC: Four plead guilty in Borgata sports betting ring

MAYS LANDING - Two of the alleged leaders of a multimillion-dollar sports betting ring at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa pleaded guilty Monday to bankrolling illegal loans and money laundering.

Andrew Micali, 32, of Ventnor, the man who allegedly controlled the day-to-day operations of the 23-person ring, pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal usury, according to Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office. Micali admitted before Superior Court Judge Michael Donio that he bankrolled loans while knowing the interest rates for those loans were in excess of what the law allows, Aseltine said.

Jack Buscemi Jr., 50, of Harrison Township, Gloucester County, the alleged boss of the ring, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, Aseltine said. Buscemi admitted that he possessed money that he knew was the proceeds of illegal gambling - money that was generated as the result of a conspiracy with Micali, Aseltine said.

Under the terms of the plea deals, the state will recommend five-year prison terms for both Micali and Buscemi. Micali agreed to forfeit $150,000, and Buscemi must forfeit or pay fines totaling $50,000, Aseltine said.

Also pleading guilty Monday was one of 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, pleaded guilty to the third-degree charge of promotion of gambling, Aseltine said.

Robert Mackie, 39, of Staten Island, N.Y., also pleaded guilty to third-degree promotion of gambling. Both Wishnick and Mackie admitted in court to being "agents" of the gambling ring, Aseltine said. Under the terms of their pleas, Wishnick and Mackie will face probation, but the state will ask that county jail time be served, Aseltine said.

All four men will be sentenced Feb. 13 before Donio.

The ring, which authorities say operated out of a poker room at Borgata for 20 months, was busted in November 2007, when a multi-agency investigation, dubbed Operation High Roller, led to the arrests. New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram previously said the ring took in $60 million in bets, but Borgata itself was not involved.

The indictment handed down in April charged Buscemi, Micali, and Anthony Nicodemo, 36, of Philadelphia, with racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering, as well as third-degree promotion of gambling. Nicodemo is accused of also exercising leadership over the ring. He is scheduled to appear in court - along with the remaining 18 defendants - Thursday at 1:30 p.m., according to Nicodemo's attorney, James Leonard Jr.

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 games. Micali and Buscemi allegedly received a percentage of the gambling proceeds collected by the agents.

Deputy Attorney General Kerry DiJoseph is representing the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau, Casino Prosecutions Unit.

Micali's attorney, Louis Barbone, had no comment regarding the plea deals Monday. Buscemi's attorney, Robert Messick, and Mackie's attorney, Carl Poplar, did not return calls for comment Monday afternoon. Wishnick's attorney, Holly Bitters, could not be reached for comment.

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