From Gangsters and Rats to Key Crime Witnesses, Gaming’s Flatliners of 2018 Never Saw It Coming

Posted on: December 29, 2018, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: December 12, 2018, 06:27h.

In 2018, the gaming and casino industry — both legal and illicit — saw its share of murders and unexplained deaths. It turns out the movies really aren’t that far off when it comes to portraying the possible ways to die if you tangle with the wrong people.

Matthew Crane — a material witness in the conviction of former Mohegan Sun VP of Player Development Robert Pellegrini in 2017 (in white, left) — was found dead in a creek in September this year. The Luzerne County Coroner’s Office ruled the odd death an “accidental drowning.” (Image:

Dead Man’s Hand

Mohegan Sun Pocono dealer Matthew Crane, 28, was found dead in a creek in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on September 8.

Having been instrumental in the exposure of former VP of Player Development Robert Pellegrini’s $478,000 scheme to defraud the casino in 2014 and 2015 — along with two accomplices — one might think Crane’s death would have been followed by months of investigating to determine if there could have been any nefarious connection.

But the Luzerne County Coroner’s office took barely 48 hours to rule the drowning “accidental,” even though toxicology reports can take “weeks [or even] months,” according to board-certified toxicologist Alan Hall, MD, on WebMD.

Mobsters Offed at Point-Blank Range

Autumn 2018 was a tough one for gangsters, who never know which day might be their last. In scenes reminiscent of any number of classic Mafia-based movies, two alleged mob affiliates were taken out in their cars by hit men this fall.

71-year-old Sylvester Zottola never picked up his coffee at McDonald’s drive-thru in the Bronx, after a hit snuffed out his life in October. (Image: Christopher Sadowski/NYP)

First to go down, on Oct. 4, was Sylvester Zottola, 71, a Bronx, New York-based Bonanno crime family associate who had made it to his septuagenarian years despite three previous failed attempts on his life by rival families.

While waiting in a drive-thru line at a Mickey D’s at 4:45 pm ET, Zottola — who was known to frequent that particular location and obviously couldn’t easily have maneuvered his car inside the line — was shot five times with 9 mm bullets by an alleged highly placed Bloods gang member, who was subsequently arrested one week later.

Reputed Greco-Australian gangster Johnny Macris was taken out by an unknown hitman on Halloween in Athens. (Image: Reuters)

Then on Oct. 31 — halfway around the world in Athens, Greece — suspected illegal sports betting syndicate associate John Macris was also taken out while sitting in his wife’s car right outside his own home in an upscale Athens suburb.

The hitman pumped four bullets into the passenger side window, hitting Macris in the chest, stomach, and shoulder, but leaving him alive.

As the reputed mobster tried to stumble out of the driver’s side of the car, the killer-for-hire wasted no time in coming around to his side and finishing him off, then disappearing into the night.

While the incident was caught on home security cameras, the chances of the killer — who is believed to be one of a slew of Albanian professional hitmen — being caught are slim, according to local police.

The 46-year-old flamboyant nightclub owner left behind his shaken wife, 33-year-old Ukrainian beauty and former Playboy Playmate Victoria Karyda and their two young children.

Mafia Kingpin Turned FBI Canary Turned Fugitive Snuffed Out

One of the FBI’s most high-profile informants, James “Whitey” Bulger, died as he lived this year: at the hands of violent murderers.

On Oct. 30 — less than a day after the 89-year-old wheelchair-bound ex-Mob informant had been transferred to West Virginia’s high-security Hazelton federal penitentiary — Bulger was discovered by prison staff wrapped in blankets inside his cell, where it appeared he had been beaten to death by fellow inmates.

Subsequent reports indicated the much-hated former Boston mob kingpin — who was convicted of 11 murders in 2013 after 16 years of evading law enforcement — was likely the victim of fellow inmates who consider “rats,” or turncoat informants, to be the lowest form of criminal.

Bulger’s death was just the latest in a long string of violent acts at the reportedly understaffed prison. Richard Heldreth, who is president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 420 in the area, told media that a federal hiring freeze had left the prison woefully understaffed.

This is the third homicide in seven months at our facility. We are very understaffed, we are short about 40 officers,” Heldreth, speaking with Britain’s BBC by phone, insisted.

Heldreth added that there had been “60 documented violent incidents at the FCC, and prisons at the complex have been ‘locked down’ nine times due to violence.”