Cantor Gaming sportsbook at the Palms

The new sportsbook at the Palms, now operated by Cantor Gaming, was the scene of an insider betting scam from 2006 and 2007. Charles Pecchio received a light sentence for his role in the scandal. (Image: flickr.com)

Charles Pecchio, a professional horse handicapper from New Jersey, has been sentenced to three years’ probation for his part in an illegal betting operation that bilked the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas out of $800,000.

Pecchio was judged to be a small cog in a large-scale gambling racket orchestrated by brothers Michael and Jeffrey Jelinsky. The Jelinskys pleaded guilty to operating an illegal bookmaking business at a trial in 2009, served time in a federal prison, and were forced to forfeit assets in excess of $5 million.

Since then, an additional three employees, besides Pecchio, of the Palms’ sportsbook have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in relation to an insider betting scam at the Palms that took place during 2006 and 2007 at the behest of the Jelinskys.

The three former Palms employees, supervisors Michael Albanese and Matthew Kidle, and ticket writer Kassie Baker, were said to have accepted bogus quinella horseracing bets from the Jelinskys, Pecchio, and others involved in the scam. Only the winning bets were paid out, however; losing bets were refunded by the insiders.

Bogus Quinella Bets

A quinella is a bet in which a customer chooses the first- and second-place finishers without specifying the order, and will win if the chosen horses finish first and second. The court was told that it was the Palms’ policy to prohibit quinella bets if horses were withdrawn from a race so that the field dropped below six runners, as this improves customer’s odds of winning. However, the fraudsters accepted such bets regardless, while continuing to refund losing stakes for losing wagers.

Albanese was sentenced in July to 366 days in federal prison and ordered to pay, along with the other defendants, a total of $232,231 in restitution to the Palms. Baker, meanwhile, was sentenced in May to three years of probation, while Kidle is still awaiting sentencing.

Pecchio claimed that he had joined the operation only towards the end, and, unlike the others, claimed responsibility for only about $25,000 of the Palms’ losses, not the full $800,000 that was defrauded from the casino. The judge accepted this claim. Pecchio was ordered to pay $59,606 in restitution to the Palms and to spend 10 months of his probation in electronically monitored home confinement.

Michael Jelinsky in Charge

“Mr. Pecchio was minimally involved in the much larger scheme to defraud the Palms casino,” his lawyer Chris Rasmussen said after the trial. “That’s why he got a lighter sentence. This allows him to continue his career as a professional horse handicapper.”

Pecchio had told the court during his trial over the summer that Michael Jelinsky was the real kingpin behind the Palms operation. “He was the main gambler. He came up with the numbers,” he said.

The Jelinsky brothers were accused of facilitating millions of dollars in illegal wagers across the US and charged with running an illegal gambling business and money laundering. Much of their business was fed through an “offshore race and sports book located in Costa Rica,” according to court documents at their trial.

The Palms sportsbook is now outsourced to Cantor Gaming.