Marc Gergely, a former Democratic Pennsylvania lawmaker who represented the 35th District in Allegheny County, is heading home to serve his sentence for his admitted participation in a multimillion-dollar illegal gambling operation.
The disgraced state representative admitted in August to using his political influence to help a friend and campaign donor convince dozens of owners of bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys in Western Pennsylvania that allowing gaming terminals to be placed inside their establishments came with little legal risk. That wasn’t true, and an investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police and Attorney General’s Office led to the uncovering of the illegal ring.
Gergely was sentenced this week by Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Edward Borkowski to 18 months house arrest, plus three years probation.
Law enforcement agencies seized 335 gaming machines in 70 locations during their raids, and brought charges against 16 individuals. In addition to Gergely, Ronald “Porky” Melocchi was named as the ringleader of the network.
The invested parties shared the financial rewards generated by the illegal machines, although the specific distribution isn’t fully known.
Pennsylvania has 12 legal casino floors, plus a lottery, parimutuel wagering, and charitable gaming.
That will soon change, as Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed a massive expansion bill into law in late October that authorizes 10 satellite casinos, online gambling, airport gaming terminals, and slot machines inside certain truck stops. Perhaps as little surprise, Gergely voted in favor of the gambling package.
Slot machines at bars, most convenience stores, and restaurants, however, remains prohibited.
That didn’t stop Melocchi from telling local business owners that allowing patrons to gamble inside their establishments was perfectly fine. For the most apprehensive owner, Porky would bring in pal Gergely to calm any legal fears.
Gergely was the last major player in the illegal gambling operation to be sentenced. Melocchi received a decade of probation, and Pittsburgh attorney Louis Caputo, who admitted to advising owners that the machines wouldn’t jeopardize their liquor licenses, received five years of probation.
Borkowski told the courtroom he was “perplexed” that none of the earlier sentences resulted in jail time. “A big splash was made at the time,” the judge said, referring back to the fanfare made during the arrest announcements.
From State House to House Arrest
Instead of going behind bars, Marc Gergely will head home where he’ll be able to spend the holidays with his family. But the normally joyous period won’t be so relaxing for the former politician.
In Pennsylvania, persons on house arrest are subject to at least two face-to-face checkups by supervising officers each month, plus three other contacts. The offender is additionally subjected to random drug and alcohol tests, and must not leave their property, with the only exceptions being approved employment, educational/vocational training, community service, drug/alcohol treatment or counseling, and religious events.
Of course, that’s still far better living conditions than a concrete prison cell.