Chicago Sweepstakes Operator’s Trial Sinks When ‘Organized Crime’ Mentioned

Posted on: March 12, 2024, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: March 13, 2024, 12:15h.

The case against the owner of a Chicago sweepstakes machine company accused of involvement in shaking down a victim over a loan collapsed last Friday. That’s after somebody mentioned “organized crime.”

Gene Cassano, Gino Cassano, Chicago Outfit, Elmwood Park Crew
Gene Cassano arriving in court last week. He denies ordering Gioacchino Galione to rough up alleged victim Luigi Mucerino over a $10k loan. (Image: Chicago Tribune)

Gene “Gino” Cassano, 55, and his codefendant, Gioacchino “Jack” Galione, 47, are both charged with conspiring to collect a debt by extortionate means. Additionally, Galione is charged with using violence to collect a debt.

Don’t Mention the Mob

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman halted proceedings in the case and declared a mistrial on Friday.  That’s after FBI Special Agent David Patch testified that his job involved investigating “organized crime matters,” The Chicago Tribune reports.

Coleman said the use of the phrase would prejudice the jury against the two defendants. That’s despite federal court records showing that the case is linked to a wider investigation into gambling and prostitution rackets allegedly operated by the Chicago Outfit’s Elmwood Park Crew.

Going forward, the government will be sure to instruct all witnesses that they cannot use the term ‘organized crime’ in any context, including to describe their own backgrounds,” the motion stated.

Previously, lawyers for Cassano and Galione accused prosecutors of “attempting to find ways to inject organized crime gloss to this case from the jump.”

‘Just Business’

Earlier in the week, the court heard testimony from the victim, Luigi Mucerino, who was assaulted in Galione’s garage on Aug. 1, 2016. That was because he borrowed $10K from Cassano, which he failed to pay back, according to prosecutors.

Mucerino told jurors he was returning from a business trip on the night he was assaulted. On his way home, he received a call from his terrified wife that someone was banging on the doors and windows.

He then got a call from Galione and agreed to meet him. He was driven to the garage where he was knocked unconscious. He awoke on the floor, bleeding. When asked why he had been attacked, Galione replied with a line straight out of Mob central casting, explaining that it was “just business.”

Lawyers for the defendants aren’t denying that Galione roughed up Mucerino. But they do deny the alleged motive for the assault and the allegation of Cassano’s involvement.

Having discharged the jury on Friday, Coleman set a status hearing for Monday to determine the next steps. The trial will have to start over.