AG: 16 charged in connection with alleged illegal gambling operation in McKeesport

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McKEESPORT, Pa. - A city councilman, a police chief and 14 other people have been charged in connection with an alleged video gambling ring operating in and around the McKeesport area, Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced Thursday.

Police said they seized more than 300 video gambling machines from about 70 locations around McKeesport in the monthslong investigation. Authorities also seized more than $1 million in cash.

Among those charged were Forward Police Chief Mark Holtzman, McKeesport Councilman Daniel K. Carr, two former McKeesport police officers, and the suspected ringleader of the alleged gambling ring, Ronald "Porky" Melocchi, of West Newton, the attorney general sad.

Kane said the investigation began in October 2012 when the Organized Crime Section of the Office of the Attorney General – in cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Police – initiated a wiretap on the cellphone being used by Melocchi.

Through his company, Black Alley Vending, Melocchi was installing, servicing and maintaining video gambling devices in bars, restaurants and other businesses in the McKeesport area, Kane said. Back Alley Vending was based in Glassport, Pa.

The investigation eventually grew to include alleged illegal lotteries and sports betting, Kane said.

Investigators said most of the seized video machines were equipped with "knock-off switches" and internal meters, which made them illegal gambling devices.

Below is a complete list of the defendants and the charges against them.

Ronald Melocchi Sr., 54, West Newton, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count in criminal use of a communication facility, one count of lotteries, one count of pool selling and bookmaking and two counts of conspiracy.

Kirk A. Mollica, 46, Elizabeth, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of lotteries, one count of gambling devices and two counts of conspiracy.

Ronald D. Prest, 65, White Oak, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of criminal use of a communication facility, one count of gambling devices and one count of conspiracy.

Terence P. McNelis, 52, Pittsburgh, is charged with one count of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of lotteries, one count of pool selling and bookmaking and one count of conspiracy.

Daniel K. Carr, 55, McKeesport, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization and two counts of gambling devices.

Eugene Thomas Kowalski, 65, North Huntingdon, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of gambling devices and one count of conspiracy.

Robert H. Bogesdorfer, 67, Irwin, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of gambling devices and one count of conspiracy.

Timothy John Minkus, 31, West Mifflin, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of gambling devices, one count of lotteries and one count of conspiracy.

Frank C. Reese, 61, McKeesport, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of gambling devices and one count of conspiracy. 

James A. Cerqua, 57, Clairton, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of gambling devices and one count of pool selling and bookmaking.

Rodney Elia Iannelli, 53, Pittsburgh, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of lotteries and one count of conspiracy.

Mark P. Holtzman*, 57, McKeesport, is charged with two counts of corrupt organization, one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity, one count of gambling devices and one count of conspiracy.

Catherine Gouker, 55, Belle Vernon, is charged with one count of gambling devices and one count of pool selling and bookmaking.

Arthur D. Pero, 56, McKeesport, is charged with two counts of lotteries.

Jeffrey F. Risha, 59, Belle Vernon, is charged with one count of pool selling and bookmaking.

Mark Novakovich, 55, White Oak, is charged with one count of gambling devices.

*Mark Holtzman currently is the chief of police in Forward Township, Allegheny County. He did not hold that position at the time of the events described in this press release, Kane said.