Father and son Mastronardo plead guilty in illegal gambling scheme

JULIE SHAW / DAILY NEWS STAFF Joseph Mastronardo Jr. and his son, Joseph, leave court.
JULIE SHAW / DAILY NEWS STAFF Joseph Mastronardo Jr. and his son, Joseph, leave court.
Posted: February 02, 2014

JOSEPH "Joe Vito" Mastronardo Jr., the son-in-law of the late Mayor Frank Rizzo, walked slowly into a federal courtroom yesterday, clutching a cane.

Mastronardo, 63 - the man known as the "Gentleman Gambler," who had hidden $1.1 million in PVC pipes under the yard of his sprawling Montgomery County manor - pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois to 16 counts in connection with an illegal, international multimillion-dollar sports-betting business he spearheaded.

The charges included racketeering conspiracy, illegal gambling and money laundering.

His son, Joseph F. "Joey" Mastronardo, 32, who worked for his father in what prosecutors called the "Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization," sat by him at the defense table. He entered guilty pleas to four counts, including racketeering conspiracy, illegal gambling and money laundering.

The bookmaking organization relied on people placing bets on websites and by phone, and involved the collection of money at gas stations, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and in Florida. And it evolved to include employees in Costa Rica.

During an April 2006 trip to Florida, "Joe Vito" Mastronardo collected "tens of thousands of dollars" from a Florida bookmaker, Michael Squillante, then called another bookmaker, saying that "he's coming home [to Pennsylvania] like a Wells Fargo truck," according to his plea memorandum.

In court yesterday, the elder Mastronardo, who suffered a stroke last March and has survived stage IV throat cancer, hoarsely said that he did not remember seeing Squillante on that trip.

Mastronardo and his son were indicted in August 2012, along with 14 others, including his wife, Joanna, the daughter of the late mayor and law-and-order police commissioner, and Mastronardo's brother, John, who was accused of being another leader in the bookmaking business.

All of the 16 except Joanna Mastronardo were charged with racketeering conspiracy and illegal gambling. Joanna Mastronardo, like her husband and son, was charged with financial "structuring" - making bank deposits in amounts less than $10,000 to evade reporting requirements.

A trial had been scheduled for Monday, but instead the case has turned into a barrage of guilty pleas. As of yesterday, 12 of the 16 defendants who were indicted had pleaded guilty.

Assistant U.S. District Attorney Jason Bologna said in court that the father and son's guilty pleas were part of a "global plea agreement" in which all of the defendants charged by indictment with racketeering conspiracy and illegal gambling are to enter guilty pleas and that their plea agreements are conditional upon the judge accepting them all.

He added that the government is expected to dismiss the one count against Joanna Mastronardo after the father and the son are sentenced.

The government will recommend a sentence within the advisory guideline range for Mastronardo, Bologna said in court. For his son, the government will recommend that he spend "no more than 15 months in prison," the prosecutor added.

After the hearing, Bologna said the guideline range for Mastronardo "is in the ballpark of three years in jail."

The father and son declined to comment after the hearing.

Christopher Warren, the son's lawyer, said "the entire Mastronardo family is looking forward to putting this behind them and moving on with their lives."

In March 2010, the FBI and Montgomery County authorities dug up $1.1 million stuffed in the pipes buried in Mastronardo's yard at his home in the Meadowbrook section of Abington Township.

As part of the plea agreements, the defendants, including the Mastronardos, are to forfeit more than $3.6 million in cash, including the $1.1 million seized from the pipes.

John Mastronardo has a guilty-plea hearing slated for Monday, but his lawyer, Dennis Cogan, has said it will be postponed.

Three other defendants - whom the government has not named - had been charged by information, as opposed to indictment, in the case and have cooperated with the government. Two of them have pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and the third to bookmaking, Bologna said.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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