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

Friday, March 07, 2008
Posted 11:55 PM by

Some things I still don't understand in Slotsylvania

Has indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples ever faced an opposing lawyer or prosecutor he didn't hire?FOLLOW UP FRIDAY - Has indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples ever faced an opposing lawyer or prosecutor he didn't hire?

He hired Sal Cognetti Jr., a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted DeNaples sucessfully in 1978 on a charge that he defrauded the federal government of $525,000 for cleanup work associated with Hurricane Agnes. The Dunmore auto parts dealer, landfill owner and banker pleaded no contest to a felony conspiracy count, paid a $10,000 fine and spent three years on probation.

Cognetti is now defending the Rev. Joseph Sica, who has been charged with perjury for lying to a Dauphin County grand jury that later indicted DeNaples for perjury. The grand jury believed the Dunmore billionaire lied to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board about his ties to reputed mobsters and political fixers.

Cognetti was also one of two law enforcement references DeNaples used on his successful slots parlor application. "You judge a man by his whole life, not something that happened 30 years ago and I think when you judge Mr. DeNaples by his whole life, he is an honorable person," Cognetti told reporters then.

The other reference came from U.S. Attorney Thomas Marino, who was supposed to be building up a federal case against DeNaples even as he secretly supported the suspect's bid for a casino.

He left office last October and was hired as DeNaples' in-house counsel two months later.

Former Gaming Control Board Chairman Thomas "Tad" Decker was supposed to be weighing the public acceptability of DeNaples' license, but the board did most of its work behind closed doors under his reign and he seems to have disregarded any of the warning flags that were blowing at hurricane strength.

As soon as DeNaples got his license in 2006, one of the first things he did was hires Decker's former Philadelphia law firm, Cozen O'Connor, to handle the financing of his $412 million resort and casino. When Decker resigned from the PGCB last year, he immediately became CEO and President of Cozen O'Connor.

DeNaples also hired Peter Vaira, a former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, and J. Alan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, to assure the control board that DeNaples had no relationships with organized crime figures.

He never hired Attorney General Tom Corbett, but he did contribute $35,000 toward his election campaign and the state's top law enforcement officer now won't return it. Corbett opted to let Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico prosecute DeNaples, instead of having his own seven-attorney slots corruption unit handle the case.

But given this track record, one can only wonder which honorable barrister is getting his resume together next?

It reminds me of what another felon, Bob Bolus Jr., an enemy of DeNaples and a competing auto parts dealer, testified to during a public hearing on DeNaples' license.

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

I guess they have their uses s long as they have a law degree.


The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is handing out as much as $5 million to combat illegal slots and poker machines out of its 55 percent rake from legal slots parlors, even though some law enforcement officials are confused about how the money can be spent, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

But they're not looking a gift horse in the mouth, either. For instance, the Washington County District Attorney's office received a state grant of more than $151,000 this week to establish an illegal slot machine task force so the state can defend its gambling monopoly.

However, there are already more than 200 Pennsylvanians so addicted to slot machine gambling that they've legally barred themselves from the seven operating casinos, with seven more parlors left to open, PGCB Chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins testified to last month.

Yet, two bills that would require the PGCB to spend $1.5 million to $3.5 million on treatment for compulsive gamblers have been stuck in the House Committee on Gaming Oversight for more than a year.

And no offense to state Rep. Tom Creighton, but sending gamblers a monthly win-loss statement without providing additional means for them to seek help is just whitewashing over the social cost of legalized gambling.


One thing I'll never understand, is why did the 2005 pay raise cause such a public outrage that it was later repealed, but no groundswell can seemingly beat back the 2004 slots law, which was similarly passed in the middle of the night on the eve of a holiday with no public debate or referendum?

And now even after the Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell have reneged on the promise of using the extra $1 billion generated from slots for statewide property tax reform, one slots parlor owner has been indicted, and lobbyists are secretly spending at least $2.6 million to influence lawmakers, the public still isn't stirring.

What's it going to take? Will the public stay silent now that the state's estimate of $3 billion annually from the 14 slots parlors is expected to fall far short of projections while there's a bill waiting in the wings to expand the slots parlors into full fledge casinos?


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

Labels: , , , , ,

 |  1 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

This Week's Rants | The Daily Rant Archives

Creative Commons License
The Daily Rant by Dave Ralis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.