Alleged Montco-Based Bookmaking Ring Busted
Authorities: Multimillion dollar operation had customers across the U.S.; more than $1.1 million in cash found buried in alleged 'ringleader's' garden; pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2007
Sixteen people, including seven Montgomery County residents and the daughter of the late Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, were indicted Wednesday by federal authorities who allege that they operated a multimillion dollar illegal bookmaking ring that stretched across the United States and used a Blue Bell gas station as its mailing address.
Joseph V. Mastronardo, Jr., of the Meadowbrook section of Abington, and his brother John Mastronardo, of Blue Bell, were identified as the "ringleaders" of what authorities called the "Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization" in a statement released by the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office.
“This alleged racketeering operation was anchored in Montgomery County, but had tentacles spreading across the U.S. and beyond,” said Risa Ferman, Montgomery County District Attorney, in the statement.
"Ringleaders" pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2007
“Despite our attempt to shut it down in 2006-2007 with a Montgomery County prosecution, my office discovered that the defendants, as is alleged in the indictment, were back in business," Ferman said. "We partnered with our federal counterparts to examine the full scope of the alleged illegal gambling operation. Today’s indictment reflects the work of many law enforcement agents across multiple agencies. These defendants tried to ‘game’ the system. Today they crapped out.”
The Mastronardo brothers pleaded guilty in 2007 to similar charges and surrendered $2.7 million in assets seized by authorities as part of a deal struck with then-district attorney Bruce L. Castor, Jr., who later served as Joseph V. Mastronardo's defense attorney and is now a Montgomery County Commissioner.
The defendants allegedly used a combination of telephone, Skype, email, text messages, and in-person meetings to communicate with bettors and collect or make payments ranging from $1,000 to more than $100,000.
Proceeds from the operation were allegedly laundered through check cashing agencies, private bank accounts, international bank accounts, and other means. Losing bettors were provided with instructions that allowed them to pay their debts by making charitable donations.
According to the indictment, more than $1.1 million in cash was found buried in PVC pipes in Joseph V. Mastronardo's garden in 2010.
Read the complete federal indictment against the alleged members of the Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization in this article's PDF section.
- Joseph Vito Mastronardo, Jr., 62, of Meadowbrook
- John Mastronardo, 57, of Blue Bell
- Joseph F. Mastronardo, 30, of Meadowbrook, son of Joseph V.
- Eric Woehlcke, 35, of Philadelphia
- Harry Murray, 60, of Boca Raton, Fl.
- Joseph Vitelli, 69, of Blue Bell
- Anna Rose Vitelli, 65, of Blue Bell
- Patrick Tronoski, 48, of Blue Bell
- Edward Feighan, 71, of Harleysville
- Kenneth Cohen, 66, of Yardley
- Schuyler Twaddle, 28, of Chesterbrook
- Michael Loftus, 30, of Philadelphia
- Michael Squillante, 58, of Coral Springs
- David Rounick, 37, of Penn Valley
- Ronald Gendrachi, 52, of Atco, NJ
- Joanna Mastronardo, 62, of Meadowbrook
Joanna Mastronardo, the wife of Joseph Mastronardo, Jr., is the daughter of the late Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, according to KYW Newsradio 1060.
All, with the exception of Twaddle, were arrested Wednesday morning, the district attorney's office said.
Authorities believe the senior Joseph Mastronardo has been involved in illegal bookmaking for decades. A 1987 Philadelphia Inquirer report describes Mastronardo, then just 37 years old, having his bail revoked for allegedly continuing his involvement with illegal gambling after a conviction on similar charges earlier that year.
A 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times describes surveillance recordings in which Joseph Mastronardo bemoaned the various difficulties he encountered running the operation.