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All bets off now for gambling ring

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Four people from The Observer coverage area, and a relative of a North Arlington elected official, are among 29 suspects linked to what law enforcement officials characterized as “an illegal sports gambling enterprise operating in and around Bergen County.”

The arrests of 28 men and one woman were announced by Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli last Friday, June 13.

Molinelli said the venture “netted approximately $3 million during a 12-month period by accepting wagers on various sporting events including horse racing, football, basketball, hockey and baseball.”

The execution of 42 search warrants in Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Passaic, Morris, Union, Ocean and Monmouth counties and in New York resulted in the seizure of two vehicles and about $800,000, according to the prosecutor.

Molinelli said the arrests were the culmination of an investigation, beginning in February 2014, that focused on illegal gambling and money laundering activities taking place in and around Bergen County and targeted suspects Gary Latawiec, 76, of Clifton, and Anthony Pintabona, 72, of Secaucus, as the alleged gambling ringleaders.

Latawiec and Pintabona are both charged with racketeering, money laundering, promoting gambling and conspiracy/ promoting gambling.

The investigation also concluded that suspects Patrick Caporizzo, 65, of Toms River, and James Roberts, 62, of Clifton, acted as mid-level managers for Latawiec, according to Molinelli. Caporizzo and Roberts are both charged with conspiracy/racketeering, promoting gambling and conspiracy/ promoting gambling.

Caporizzo and Roberts “had a large network of operatives or ‘agents’ that ran individual gambling ‘packages’ on their behalf. These ‘agents’ were paid a commission, or percentage of the profits made by the organization,” the prosecutor said. The “agents’ met with individual bettors to pay out winnings or collect losses, he said.

“The ring used non-traditional ‘wire rooms,’ in the form of off-shore, Internet-based gambling services – such as beteagle.com, 119green.net, betritz.com, playhere24/7.com, thewagerplace.com, betcris.com – used by bettors and agents, to actually place their wagers,” Molinelli said. “It is alleged that members of the enterprise used the off-shore wire rooms to maintain the gambling accounts of numerous agents through the Internet websites in an effort to evade traditional law enforcement detection methods.”

Molinelli said that bettors and agents “were given code names and passwords with these off-shore wire rooms” to try and evade detection by law enforcement.

It is estimated that bets placed through these wire rooms exceeded $50 million during a year’s period, he said.

The area defendants listed as being part of the ring were identified as Kevin Melton, 51, of Kearny; Nathan Howell, 71, of Lyndhurst; Donald Delli- Paoli, 53, of Nutley; and Robert Norcia, 77, of North Arlington. All are charged with promoting gambling, conspiracy/ promoting gambling and gambling.

Also arrested and similarly charged was Daniel Pronti, 70, of Bayonne, a Jersey City public works employee and the father of North Arlington Councilman Daniel Pronti. The councilman, a retired Montclair police superior, issued a statement saying, “I’m a lifetime supporter and upholder of the law. I have faith in our judicial system as well as in my family. I will support my father through this difficult time and hope for the best possible outcome through due process. I appreciate as much privacy as possible regarding my family.”

Other defendants listed were: Luigi Mele, 72, of Jersey City; Christine Larva, 71, of Bayonne; Kevin Norton, 54, of Secaucus; Nicholas Ferro, 28, of Secaucus; James Tisitsiragos, 64, of Leonia; Lawrence Annunziata, 50, of Glen Rock; Scott King, 53, of Wycoff; Nicholas Mulvhill, 28, of Wayne; Nikitas Logothetis, 61, of Elmwood Park; John Ferrera, 64, of Springfield; Dominic Santaite, 34, of Washington Township; John Lombardi, 55, of Morris Plains; Kevin Kirk, 51, of West Milford; Brian Kirk, 49, of Woodbridge; Daniel Salameno, 53, of Pompton Lakes; Frank Blasso, 60, of Upper Saddle River; Joseph Margiotta, 63, of Morristown; Glen Delrusso, 62, of Wall; Emil Boller, 53, of Wharton; and James Maka, 47, of Flanders.

All are charged with promoting gambling, conspiracy/promoting gambling.

Bail was set for all defendants with no 10% cash option.

Molinelli credited the prosecutor’s offices from the counties of Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Essex, Union, Ocean and Monmouth, along with the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and New York Police Department for help in serving the warrants.

– Ron Leir

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