"What's black and white and read all over?"

Friday, April 28, 2006
Posted 7:01 PM by

Louis, Louis

Reclusive political contributor Louis DeNaples faced the media, an enemy and the state Gaming Control Board on Thursday for the first time about his plan for a slot machine parlor in the Poconos.

Louis DeNaples, center, owner of Mount Airy Lodge, speaks to reporters after testifying before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board at Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, Pa., Thursday. (AP Photo)Two weeks ago I asked the question, "Who is Louis DeNaples?"

On Thursday, we found out he's the kind of guy who brings a Roman Catholic nun with him as a character witness while requesting a slots parlor license from the state's Gaming Control Board for his now-defunct Mount Airy Lodge.

DeNaples, 64, of Dunmore, told the board, "It's the best location in the Poconos," the Associated Press reported today.

The publicity-shy Keystone Landfill owner, auto parts dealer and banker wants to turn the former lover's getaway in the Poconos he bought for $25 million into a $360 million, 200-room slots resort by fall 2007.

Dressed in a black suit, DeNaples hunched at the podium as he read carefully in a "confident, staccato voice" from a script. "Mount Airy will be the signature resort of the Poconos," DeNaples said. "It will be done on time, it will operate with complete honesty and integrity, and it will be a project we can all be proud of."

Just like the song "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen, though, DeNaples is hard to discern, easily misunderstood and has been a subject of investigation by law enforcement.

A-way we go.

DeNaples pleaded no contest to a federal fraud felony decades ago. Federal and state agencies have also publically questioned his association with organized crime figures, but were not able to prove any wrongdoing.

That hasn't stopped most of the state's top officials - including Gov. Ed Rendell and Attorney General Tom Corbett - from accepting more than $1 million in campaign contributions from DeNaples over the last five years.

His "generosity knows no limits," Sister Mary Bonaventa, the administrator of a retreat house next to Mount Airy, told the gaming board. She also said DeNaples "lives out the Gospels in his everyday life."

He's also a man with an enemy.

Is Louis DeNaples (pictured here) a crook with ties to the mob, as an angry business rival claims, or a man of deep conviction and deep pockets as a nun testified? (Photo from The Pocono Record)Bob Bolus Sr., whose Bolus Truck Parts competes with DeNaples in Dunmore, called him a crook with ties to the mob, according to the Pocono Record.

"DeNaples will lie, cheat and even allow someone to be imprisoned to get his own way," Bolus said in a prepared statement (pdf). "Louis feels he can just buy anyone he wants."

Bolus gave the board and reporters 67 pages about DeNaples' campaign donations to politicians and references to him in reports from the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission.

DeNaples' spokesman Kevin Feeley denied the accusation, saying, "He has no ties to organized crime." He called Bolus "someone who clearly has an ax to grind on a personal level."

Bolus claimed DeNaples helped ruin him in a complicated case from the early 1990s in which Bolus was convicted of receiving stolen property - a front-end loader - and spent four months in a work release center.

DeNaples is no stranger to criminal court, either. He received a suspended sentence in 1978. He pleaded no contest to felony fraud after a jury could not reach a verdict on charges he tried to defraud the federal government out of $525,000 in the wake of Tropical Storm Agnes.

"You can paint a leopard, you can get rid of his spots, but in this case, the spots don't go away," Bolus said.

DeNaples is vying for one of only two free-standing slots parlor licenses available in the state.

A competing proposal called Pocono Manor would build a $1.2 billion, 750-room luxury hotel/casino on a 375-acre parcel in Tobyhanna Township.

Sister Mary Bonaventa, who lives in and runs Villa of Our Lady, a religious retreat center, which is across the street from Mount Airy Resort, a prospective casino site. Bonaventa spoke in favor of Louis DeNaples, the owner of Mount Airy Resort. (AP Photo)Put forth by New Jersey real estate developer Greg Matzel, 41, the plan drew fire because its proposed height at 16 stories would make it the tallest building in the Poconos.

One woman complained that the proposed casino would be constructed a quarter-mile away from an elementary school.

Pocono Manor has been heavily criticized by an anti-casino group in Tobyhanna Township, but Matzel said 1,500 supporters have signed a petition in favor of his project in the last 10 days.

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