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

Thursday, April 13, 2006
Posted 11:30 PM by

Who is Louis DeNaples?

I've never met Louis A. DeNaples or talked with him. Yet, this week I called him a Pennsylvania slots parlor hopeful who is also "reportedly a felon with ties to organized crime figures."

No lawyer has contacted me asking for a retraction. But it still has me troubled. Who is Louis DeNaples?

I do know DeNaples has given more than $1 million to the campaigns of the state's top politicians - including the governor, lawmakers, judges and state attorney general - over the last five years.

"Frankly, the allegations amount to hearsay upon hearsay, assumptions and idle rumor."

- Kevin Feeley
Louis DeNaples' spokesman
So far, state Sen. David "Chip" Brightbill is the only legislator to give any of that money back.

I also know DeNaples is now competing for one of only two licenses in the state available for a free-standing slot machine parlor.

But I can't even find a picture of the guy through Google or Yahoo.

Is DeNaples a bank chairman, businessman and a pillar of his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton community, as lists him?

Is he an opportunist who sees the potential of turning a defunct Poconos "lovers" hotel, once known worldwide for its heart-shaped tubs built for two, into that region's first slots parlor - and eventually a casino?

Is he a criminal looking to gain entry into the highly profitable world of legalized gambling?

Is he all three, befitting the sordid politics and history of the Northeastern Pennsylvania coal region?

I'll tell you straight up I don't know. But I can't help but feel I need an answer to that question.


I do know DeNaples bought the once-"beautiful Mount Airy Lodge" in 2004 for $25 million and has not made any political contributions since he applied for a license to operate a slots parlor there on Dec. 21, 2005, which would be illegal. He plans a 200-room hotel and 2,400 slot machines on its 890 acres.

I do know DeNaples, 64, of Dunmore, is president of DeNaples Auto Parts, the 720-acre Keystone Landfill, vice president of D&L Realty Corp and chairman of the Board of First National Community Bancorp Inc. He's also on the board of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

And I do know, thanks to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that a spokesman for DeNaples says the public allegations against his boss are largely unproven.

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

"Twenty-eight years ago, Louis DeNaples had a conviction. Twenty-eight years is a long time."

- Robert Jubelirer
Pa. Senate President

In 1990, the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission reported James Osticco, underboss of the Buffalino crime family, bribed the husband of a juror to hold out for acquittal in the trial.

However, Kevin Feeley, a DeNaples aide and spokesman, told the Trib there were four defendants in the original trial and, "There was not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Louis had anything to do with it."

I've worked in that region. When Agnes hit in 1972 the area was ruled by Congressman Dan Flood the way Mayor Richard Daley once ruled Chicago.

The locals still tell tall tales of residents whose homes were not touched by the flood waters suddenly buying fur coats and new cars with federal grant money.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Jubelirer, who accepted $20,000 from a DeNaples-owned company even though he voted against the slots law, called DeNaples a respected businessman.

"Twenty-eight years ago, Louis DeNaples had a conviction. Twenty-eight years is a long time," Jubelirer said. "... He's given an enormous amount back to his community. It's certainly unfortunate people would want to take advantage of something like that."

Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger, Jubelirer's opponent in the Republican primary, has called on the incumbent to return the money to DeNaples. Jubelirer, however, dismissed it as politics.


In 2001, the IRS filed an affidavit in U.S. District Court outlining contacts and "good will" and protection money DeNaples allegedly paid to William "Big Bill" D'Elia, the alleged head of the Buffalino crime family in Northeastern Pennsylvania. But neither man was charged with any wrongdoing.

"Frankly, the allegations amount to hearsay upon hearsay, assumptions and idle rumor, and in one instance they referred to one of those sources as basing his source on street talk," Feeley told the Tribune-Review. "There is a reason none of that has been proven: It is not true."

Did slots parlor hopeful and landfill operator Louis DeNaples pay alleged crime boss 'Big Bill' D'Elia, pictured here protection money?In 1989, Harold Kaufman, a former union official, told the Pennsylvania Crime Commission that D'Elia was a mob power broker in the solid-waste landfill industry in upstate Pennsylvania.

DeNaples heads the Keystone Landfill, one of the largest in the state, so it's certainly possible the two have at least met.

Again, I've never met DeNaples. But I have met D'Elia.

It was only for a moment and, I'm sure, entirely forgetable to him. He used to hold court in a booth at The Woodlands, a nightclub near Wilkes-Barre which was known in the '90s as being one of the largest purchasers of alcohol in Pennsylvania.

And I do know D'Elia, 59, of Pittston, is banned from Atlantic City's casinos by the New Jersey attorney general's office.


DeNaples' direct competitor for one of the two free-standing slots parlor licenses available in the state is Greg Matzel, who applied for a license for Pocono Manor Resort & Casino in Monroe County.

On Thursday, Matzel told the Associated Press neither he nor any other principal in the Pocono Manor project has donated money to state lawmakers.

"It would be an absolute tragedy if politics trumped economic benefit and better judgment," Matzel said. "Clearly, we're concerned about any conflicts that may exist.

"We come with no strings attached," he added. "Clearly, there will be no public perception that there was any favoritism given to us if we are awarded the license."

DeNaples is a friend and former client of Scranton lawyer William P. Conaboy, 46, vice president and general counsel at Allied Services in Lackawanna County. Conaboy is also a director on the bank board DeNaples chairs.

Conaboy was appointed to the state gambling commission by state Senate Democratic leader Robert J. Mellow, whom Conaboy once served as an aide.

"It would be an absolute tragedy if politics trumped economic benefit and better judgment."

- Greg Matzel
DeNaples' competitor for a slots parlor license

Conaboy stepped down from the gaming board last month, citing the need to devote more time to his health care executive job. His March 24 resignation came after a cousin of Conaboy's wife had been hired by the board as a deputy press secretary. Conaboy had recommended the relative, Kevin Eckenrode, 25, for a position as a press aide.

Eckenrode was charged with murder last month after his girlfriend fell from the window of his 23-story apartment in Harrisburg. Rachel Kozlusky, 23, plunged to her death after the two had been on a two-day drinking spree, officials said.

Mellow appointed Raymond S. Angeli, the president of Lackawanna College, as Conaboy's replacement. DeNaples is also tied indirectly to him. Angeli reports to a 22-member board whose chairman is Dominic L. DeNaples, Louis A. DeNaples' older brother.

Angeli has denied the existence of any conflict of interest, saying he would decide licenses on their merits.

Dominic DeNaples, 67, of Dunmore, has no stake in his brother's slots application, according to the AP. However, he is listed by as a First National bank director, president of D&L, and vice president of both the landfill and auto parts businesses.

Louis DeNaples' spokesman, Kevin Feeley, said Thursday that any suggestion of a conflict between DeNaples and board members is "baseless and without support and fact."

"I think frankly they do a disservice to members of the board who take their jobs seriously and who are all highly experienced professionals," Feeley said.


For more about Louis DeNaples and to read my complete take on this long-predicted Slotsylvania snafu, click here.

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