Pennsylvania Family Charged With Running Three-Decades-Long Illegal Video Poker Operation
Posted on: July 27, 2018, 11:30h.
Last updated on: July 27, 2018, 08:40h.
A family in Western Pennsylvania is being accused of operating an illegal video poker enterprise that made millions of dollars and endured for more than three decades.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro alleges in a presentment that four members of the Biros family, Robert, 83, Andrew, 52, Christine, 55, and Alfred, 63, illegally placed video gambling machines in bars and clubs in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
Shapiro and the state police say the unlawful gambling enterprise ran over the last 30 years, and flushed the family with millions of dollars.
Today we’ve ended an illegal video gambling operation run by one family for over three decades,” Shapiro announced. “These defendants raked in millions of dollars in illegal profits, draining money from Pennsylvanians – and from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Shapiro said the investigation began in 2011 when the Pennsylvania State Police and Liquor Control Enforcement seized eight illegal video gambling machines owned by the Biros clan at a bar in Allegheny County. Bar owners were reportedly paid $10,000 to $15,000 up front for housing the machines.
Police began surveilling the Biros family and determined that they were the masterminds behind the placement and operation of gambling terminals in 18 establishments in Western Pennsylvania. Law enforcement allege bars paid out cash to players who won credits, and received a cut of the proceeds.
“These video poker machines, with the lure of the cash payout, are illegal gambling devices. Working with our partners … we’ve shut it down,” Shapiro explained.
Appearing in court on Thursday, the Biros family said little other than patriarch Robert telling a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter, “It’s fake. The whole story hasn’t come out yet.”
Last December, former state lawmaker Marc Gergely (D-Allegheny County) was sentenced to 18 months house arrest for using his political influence to convince bar owners to participate in a multimillion-dollar illegal gambling operation.
The ex-politician admitted to assuring business owners in Western Pennsylvania that the machines wouldn’t land them in any legal hot water.
Gergely’s actions were to benefit friend Ronald “Porky” Melocchi, who installed and operated 335 machines in 70 locations. In exchange for convincing owners to house the devices, Melocchi made donations to Gergely’s political campaigns.
Melocchi testified before a grandy jury about the Biros’ activities, and said he learned about the illegal gambling business from Robert.
Failed Legal Casino
According to Shapiro, the Biros family unsuccessfully tried to build a legal horse racetrack and casino in Lawrence County. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board rejected the proposal in 2013.
Lawrence County is expected to soon become home to a legal commercial casino. Mount Airy Casino won the rights to build a satellite gambling venue there in February through a $21.18 million auction bid.
The casino operator secured a 15-mile radius centered in Lawrence County’s New Castle, a city about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
Local county officials want the legal gambling property, and have said “the welcome mat is out” for Mount Airy. The satellite will be permitted to house 750 slot machines and 30 table games.
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