Guilty plea after guilty plea in Mastronardo gambling case

Posted: January 30, 2014

IN 2010, the FBI and Montgomery County authorities dug up a whopping $1.1 million stuffed in PVC pipes under the yard of Joseph "Joe Vito" Mastronardo Jr. and his wife, Joanna, daughter of the late Mayor Frank Rizzo, at their sprawling manor in the Meadowbrook section of Abington Township.

Mastronardo, known as the "Gentleman Gambler," was accused of heading an illegal multimillion-dollar sports-betting business with his brother, John.

His son, Joseph F. "Joey" Mastronardo, also took part in the bookmaking scheme, authorities said. The four Mastronardos and 12 others were arrested by the feds in August 2012 following an indictment, and were released on bail.

But instead of a major trial, which had been scheduled for Monday, this case is turning into a barrage of guilty pleas.

As of yesterday, four of sixteen defendants have pleaded. Another defendant is slated to plead today and two more tomorrow.

And on Friday, "Joe Vito" Mastronardo, 63, and his son, Joey, 32, are expected to plead guilty before U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois.

All of the defendants except Joanna Mastronardo were charged with racketeering conspiracy and illegal gambling.

Dennis Cogan, attorney for John Mastronardo, said in an email yesterday: "Everyone [who is charged with racketeering conspiracy and illegal gambling] is pleading guilty as it is a global deal."

John Mastronardo is slated for a plea hearing Monday, but it will be postponed, Cogan added.

Yesterday, Patrick Tronoski, 49, of Blue Bell, who was a bookmaker from 2007 to 2010 in what prosecutors have called the "Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization," pleaded guilty to the two counts of racketeering conspiracy and illegal gambling.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bologna said in court that Tronoski's plea was part of a "global plea." That is, it's dependent on all the other co-defendants who are similarly charged entering guilty pleas and having those pleas be accepted by the judge. As part of Tronoski's plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence of no more than 15 months in prison.

Tronoski, owner of Whitpain Tavern in Blue Bell, who has five children and a stepdaughter, declined comment afterward. His attorney, Francis Recchuiti, said his client was "small potatoes" in the Mastronardo bookmaking business and said Tronoski's restaurant had nothing to do with the gambling operation.

On Friday, Eric Woehlcke, described as "a leader in the bookmaking organization," pleaded guilty to the same two counts. His attorney, Anthony Petrone, said yesterday that the feds had dismissed money laundering and another charge against his client.

Bologna said after yesterday's hearing that two other defendants, whom he did not have permission to name, have also pleaded guilty and have agreed to serve as cooperating witnesses.

Joanna Mastronardo, daughter of the late mayor and police commissioner, is accused of making bank deposits in amounts less than $10,000 to evade reporting requirements. Her attorney, William J. Brennan, said yesterday: "At this point, she is not expected to plead guilty."

Cogan has emphasized that there are no allegations of violence or mob connections in this case.


On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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