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Sunday, March 02, 2008
Posted 8:55 PM by

Slots of Louis DeNaples in the news

Even before the state Gaming Control Board issued a license to now-indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples, it knew he may have illegally sold at least one of 30 Hurricane Katrina-wrecked trucks.Busy news weekend on the Louis DeNaples front.

First off, the now-indicted slots parlor owner was praised by a Roman Catholic bishop on Friday for helping fund the University of Scranton's new $35 million student center, which is named for DeNaples' parents.

"I congratulate the DeNaples family," said Scranton Bishop Joseph F. Martino. "I don't know what I'd do without the assistance I receive from this wonderful family."

DeNaples, who faces perjury charges for lying to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board about alleged mob ties, and the Rev. Joseph Sica, a family friend also charged with perjury in the case, joined more than 700 people for the dedication and Mass on Friday at the Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center.

Two days later, though, DeNaples was the subject of two other articles far less flattering.

The Dunmore billionaire was the subject of a criminal probe just last year for buying 30 tractor-trailers flooded by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans for $180,000, and allegedly selling at least one for use on the open road for $75,000 rather than scrapping it, The Morning Call of Allentown reported Sunday.

State Police, acting on a referral from the FBI, began investigating the case early last year as possible "title washing" of the Katrina trucks, Ralph Periandi, a former deputy commissioner for the staties, told the newspaper.

A law enforcement source said the investigation remains open and the gaming board knew of that probe before issuing a license to DeNaples, former PGCB Chairman Tad Decker said.

Decker also said the board referred the matter in fall 2006 to the Department of State. The gaming board dismissed the incident, though, after the department reported it "didn't have any proof there was anything illegal."

DeNaples is a federal felon. He pleaded no contest in 1978 to defrauding the government of more than $500,000 for cleanup work associated with Hurricane Agnes. The 2004 law legalizing slot machine gambling did not bar him from owning a slots parlor, though, because it specifically forgave any offenses older than 15 years.

Meanwhile, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico has denied DeNaples' defense allegations that he is an ambitious prosecutor who misused a county grand jury to help the state police win a turf war with the Gaming Control Board.

Marsico told The Times-Tribune of Scranton that he simply is "going where the evidence leads" in the case against DeNaples.

The paper's Harrisburg reporter, Robert Swift, pressed Marsico on the whole jurisdiction question, namely why a Dauphin County DA is prosecuting a Lackawanna County man concerning a casino he owns in Monroe County.

In an opinion filed last December when the Supreme Court allowed the DeNaples grand jury proceedings to resume, now-retired Chief Justice Ralph Cappy warned against the Dauphin County DA elevating himself to a super prosecutor of gaming violations "due mainly to the geographic circumstance that he presides in the county where the politically charged gaming legislation was enacted."

But Marsico countered, "We didn't self-elevate ourselves to anything. The state police brought to us this investigation because the hearing where the alleged perjury occurred took place in our jurisdiction."

Marsico said state police previously asked him to handle prosecution of several individuals who ran afoul of the act's provisions regulating political campaign contributions. These minor cases were settled with regulatory fines and without criminal charges.

His answer jives with one given by state Attorney General Tom Corbett, who said he opted to let Marsico prosecute DeNaples - rather than have the state's seven-attorney gambling corruption unit take the case - because the local prosecutor was already working on other gambling-related cases. The corruption unit has yet to bring a single gambling-related prosecution.

Corbett, who is up for reelection, has denied his decision to let Marsico proceed was made because DeNaples contributed at least $35,000 to Corbett's first election campaign. However, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, the sole candidate to file for the Democratic party's nomination for state Attorney General, has already made those donations a campaign issue.


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

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