Pennsylvania Reputed Gambling Ring Leader and Son Plead Guilty, to Pay $300K Fine

Posted on: September 17, 2020, 09:31h. 

Last updated on: September 18, 2020, 08:38h.

A father and son duo pleaded guilty this week to charges involving illegal wagering on state lottery numbers and sporting events. The two reputedly led an organized gambling ring for decades in western Pennsylvania.

Robert Iannelli
90-year-old father Robert Iannelli (seen here) and his 60-year-old son Rodney reached a plea agreement this week over illegal lottery and corrupt organization charges. (Image: Tribune-Review file)

Robert “Bobby I” Iannelli, 90, of Pittsburgh, admitted to corrupt organizations and operating illegal lottery charges. His son, Rodney “Rusty” Iannelli, 60, of Wexford, pleaded guilty to illegal lotteries, bookmaking, and conspiracy to engage in illegal lotteries/bookmaking.

Under the plea agreement, the father and son will jointly pay $75,000 and forfeit an additional $225,000 in illegal gambling proceeds, prosecutors said. Both were sentenced on Wednesday by Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio to at least 10 years. But they were given probation, so, as of now, they will not spend any time in prison.

The Iannelli’s were charged with 11 others following a grand jury investigation launched in 2015 by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. The investigation centered on a gambling operation that allegedly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars weekly, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. The scheme used a wedding vendor to allegedly launder money earned from the operation.

The arrests came as a result of a six-month investigation spanning 2016 and 2017. Evidence was gathered from five court-approved wiretaps.

“They’re in the gambling business. It’s lotteries and bookmaking. It’s a lucrative job,” said Deputy Attorney General Mark Serge, quoted by the Tribune-Review. “This part of the operation spans Pittsburgh, eastern Allegheny County, and into Westmoreland County. It was a substantial operation.”

Links to LaRocca-Genovese Crime Family

Robert Iannelli was an “associate” of the LaRocca-Genovese organized crime family, according to the 1990 Pennsylvania Crime Commission Report. The family is named after former bosses John LaRocca and Michael Genovese, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro confirmed on Thursday to

Michael Genovese was a cousin of reputed mob boss Vito Genovese, Donald Liddick Jr., a professor at Penn State University who has authored a textbook on organized crime, told Vito Genovese led the Genovese crime family between 1957 and 1969. More recently, some of its associates have been arrested on illegal gambling charges.

Michael Genovese took over the operation in Pittsburgh in 1984 when John LaRocca died, Liddick said. He added that the Pittsburgh family operated mostly “independent of the New York hierarchy.” He explained the LaRocca-Genovese family was later “decimated by criminal prosecutions in the 1990s.”

Started as Bookie

Robert Iannelli started as a “nickel-and-dime bookie,” Pennsylvania-based journalist and author Rich Gazarik told He grew to become increasingly involved in illegal numbers and bookmaking rackets, the crime report said. The organization eventually became a multimillion-dollar business, the Tribune-Review said.

Liddick claims Iannelli was a “big time numbers guy and bookie around Pittsburgh for decades, from the late ’50s to the present day.” He “managed to stay in business for more than a quarter century after the dissolution of the formal Pittsburgh” LaRocca-Genovese crime organization, Liddick said.

Robert Iannelli was arrested multiple times since the 1950s for illegal gambling charges. He served time in prison for gambling violations, the Tribune-Review reported.

Earlier in his career, Robert Iannelli planned to attend the now-infamous summit of US organized crime families held in 1957 at the home of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara in Apalachin, New York, Liddick said. But police raided the farm where it was to be held. reached out to defense attorney Duke George for comment on Thursday, but he did not respond before press time. While in court on Wednesday, Robert Iannelli reportedly used a wheelchair and oxygen tank. He has a heart ailment, George told the judge.