Tuesday, March 1, 2016

PA News: State Representative from Allegheny County Charged in Connection with Illegal Gambling Ring

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office today announced the filing of criminal charges against Marc J. Gergely, a state representative from Allegheny County accused of using his position as an elected official to assist the illegal gambling enterprise of a longtime friend.

The charges filed against Gergely, 46, were the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Office of Attorney General and the Pennsylvania State Police.

The charges were recommended by a statewide investigating grand jury. The grand jury reviewed testimony and evidence that Gergely allegedly agreed to assist in the illegal gambling enterprise headed by Ronald "Porky" Melocchi, a man Gergely allegedly knew for more than 20 years.

"This is an unfortunate case in which the players traded political capital and favors to advance their own agendas and illicit business," Attorney General Kane said. "The evidence clearly shows that Mr. Melocchi relied heavily on his relationships — including with Mr. Gergely — to conduct his illegal business."

Melocchi and 15 other individuals were criminally charged in September 2013 by the Attorney General's office. Those charges stemmed from the installation and maintenance of illegal video gambling devices in bars, restaurants and other businesses in the McKeesport area. Law enforcement officials seized more than 330 video gambling machines during the investigation. Illegal lotteries and sports betting also were part of the evidence that investigators uncovered.

A court-approved wiretap was part of the Melocchi investigation and confirmed he used a phone to run and promote his illegal business interests. The wiretap also intercepted phone calls that show Gergely allegedly assisted Melocchi's attempts to place illegal gambling machines in McKeesport-area businesses.

Melocchi came to refer to Gergely as part of his "Super PAC," and used his connection to Gergely in efforts to convince business owners to place illegal gambling devices within their establishments, a grand jury presentment alleges.

The grand jury also reviewed evidence concerning a letter that law enforcement investigators drafted in an undercover capacity and delivered to Gergely's state office. The letter describes a woman whose husband has a gambling addiction. The husband allegedly spent the couple's money on gambling machines that were part of Melocchi's illegal enterprise, the letter drafted by investigators claimed, according to the grand jury.

An intercepted phone call played for the grand jury showed Gergely tipped off Melocchi about the letter, the grand jury presentment states. Gergely allegedly failed to turn over the letter to the authorities.

Further evidence presented to the grand jury alleged Gergely collected a campaign contribution from Melocchi and later wrote a check to a colleague’s political campaign during a chain of events that resulted in a relative of Melocchi being hired by the McKeesport Area School District.

Gergely, 1943 Dearborn Drive, White Oak, Allegheny County, represents the 35th legislative district, which includes McKeesport and various other municipalities in Allegheny County. He is charged with two counts of corrupt organizations and one count each of dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity, criminal attempt/gambling devices, criminal conspiracy and violation of state election code prohibiting cash or anonymous contributions.

Gergely is expected to appear tomorrow for his preliminary arraignment.

Attorney General Kane stressed this is an ongoing investigation and additional charges are expected. She thanked the Pennsylvania State Police for its diligent work on the investigation.

Gergely's case will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Mark A. Serge of the Office of Attorney General's Organized Crime Section.