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

Friday, March 28, 2008
Posted 9:06 PM by

Reputed mob boss likely turning state's evidence in Slotsylvania

Mob boss Bill D'Elia has apparently copped a plea to testify against slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.I've long dreaded this weird, but important moment in Slotsylvania history - and I'm not talking about the nation's temporary focus on this state for the heated Democratic primary in the U.S. presidential race.

Reputed Northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Billy D'Elia pleaded guilty today to just one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of witness tampering. He had been facing nearly two dozen counts as a result of a federal investigation.

D'Elia, 61, was charged in May 2006 with laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds and five months later additional charges were added after he tried to have a witness in the case killed.

His attorney, James Swetz, declined to tell the Associated Press whether there was a plea agreement or whether D'Elia agreed to cooperate in other cases.

However, D'Elia has testified once already, in front of a Dauphin County grand jury last year. It then recommended perjury charges against Mount Airy Casino Resort owner Louis DeNaples and took the unusual step of asking for reforms to the state's slots gambling system.

The DeNaples case is beginning to rock Slotsylvania to its political core, leading some Republican state lawmakers to call for a special bipartisan committee with subpoena power to investigate his licensing.

Indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.The Dunmore billionaire and former federal felon reportedly gave more than $1.1 million to the state's top politicians - including at least $115,000 to Gov. Ed Rendell, at least $35,000 to state Attorney General Tom Corbett and hundreds of thousands more to key lawmakers and party groups on both sides of the aisle, including some publicly opposed to slot machines - to get slots gambling legalized in 2004 and to buy enough influence to get his own license two years later.

Asked by the Scranton Times-Tribune in 2006 why he gave so many campaign contributions to the state's top brass, the landfill owner, banker and auto parts dealer replied, "It's more like building a customer base and spreading goodwill. It's business."

To date, the governor and the state's top prosecutor have publicly refused to return DeNaples' money, saying through their government-hired spokesmen that DeNaples is innocent until proven guilty.

Meanwhile, DeNaples spent $67,375 last year on lobbyists to sway lawmakers into passing a bill to turn the state's 14 slots parlors into full fledged casinos. That bill, H.B. 2121, was written by House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese but has been stuck in the Gaming Oversight Committee for more than a year.

Corbett and his seven-attorney government corruption unit are not prosecuting DeNaples. Instead, Corbett says he let Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marisco do it.

DeNaples, 67, has long been rumored to have had mob connections, and was even cited in a report of the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission. He has denied any wrong doing.

DeNaples has hired high-priced lawyers and a spokesman with ties to the governor to defend him. They've launched a public smear campaign with lead defense attorney, Richard Sprague of Philadelphia, citing grand jury leaks to the media as proof Marsico is headline grabbing. The county prosecutor denies the assertion.

Swetz, D'Elia's attorney, has previously said his client would have been willing to testify before the Gaming Control Board before DeNaples was licensed, but was never subpoenaed.

Tad DeckerFormer control board chairman Tad Decker, a college buddy of Gov. Rendell who appointed him, has said he was told D'Elia would refuse to cooperate if called, but refused to say who told him.

Decker has also publicly denied testimony from state police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller that he knew or should have known state police were investigating DeNaples for perjury before the Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to grant him a license on Dec. 20, 2006.

Decker's old law firm, Cozen O'Connor, which he has since returned to head, was subsequently hired by DeNaples to handle the financing of his slots parlor.

DeNaples was indicted Jan. 30, 2008, three months after opening his $412 million slots parlor at the site of the former Mount Airy Lodge, a once-famous lover's resort. The Gaming Control Board has since barred DeNaples from his own casino and his share of its proceeds until the charges are resolved.

The grand jury found DeNaples lied to the control board behind closed doors about his relationship with D'Elia; D'Elia's former boss, the late mafia don Russell Bufalino; and two corrupt political fixers in Philadelphia, based partly upon D'Elia's testimony and federal wiretaps.

D'Elia is said to be a mediator among mob families. The Feds say he met frequently with Philadelphia mobsters and had frequent contacts with western Pennsylvania and New York families.

DeNaples told the Gaming Control Board that he and D'Elia were merely acquaintances. But D'Elia told the grand jury they've been long-time friends, even to the point where DeNaples attended his daughter's wedding.

Attorneys for DeNaples dispute D'Elia's assertion, claiming he lied to the grand jury. As proof, Sprague has cited D'Elia's claim that DeNaples gave him his late father's rosary beads as a symbol of their friendship. The beads were buried with the elder DeNaples, Sprague told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DeNaples' spokesman, Kevin Feeley, on Friday accused prosecutors of giving D'Elia a sweetheart deal in exchange for his testimony against DeNaples.

"It's clear to us that he's getting a deal to cooperate because he's the foundation of their case," Feeley said. "It is stunning that the government would agree to give a deal to a guy who allegedly tried to murder a witness."

Feeley also called D'Elia a liar. "It's clear he's willing to say anything if it helps him get a deal."

U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson declined to respond to Feeley's accusations Friday, issuing a press release that thanked state and federal law enforcement officials but said little about D'Elia's plea. He cited "sealing orders" entered by the court as his reason.

DeNaples' perjury case has yet to be scheduled for trial. His attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene, arguing Marsico overstepped his authority and the grand jury that issued the indictment was not properly empanelled.

D'Elia will be sentenced in June, when we may find out what, if any, deal he cut. He now faces up to 30 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

On DeNaples' legal team, but away from the criminal case involving DeNaples, are four former federal prosecutors.

One of them is former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Cognetti Jr., who successfully prosecuted DeNaples for a government fraud conspiracy 30 years ago. He is now defending DeNaples' friend, the Rev. Joseph Sica, who also faces perjury charges. The grand jury claimed the Scranton priest lied to them about DeNaples' mob ties.

Former U.S. Attorney Tom MarinoDeNaples also hired former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino, Carlson's predecessor. who was supposed to be building a federal case against DeNaples in 2006 when he secretedly vouched for his good character as a law enforcement reference on DeNaples' slots parlor license.

Marino recused himself from the federal probe when word of his support of DeNaples leaked last year. He later resigned to take a job as DeNaples' in-house counsel.

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.


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

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

 |  2 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

Saturday, March 22, 2008
Posted 6:19 PM by

DeNaples fights back; key lawmaker in trouble in Slotsylvania

Louis DeNaplesNow it's indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples' turn to fight back.

On Thursday, the Dunmore billionaire gave a copy of his own FBI file to the state Gaming Control Board. He initially refused to do that during the background check for his license, even though he requested it through the Federal Freedom of Information Act.

Kevin Feeley, DeNaples' spokesman, blamed the discrepancy on the FBI's failure to release the entire file to DeNaples in a timely manner. Since then, the FBI has supplied the entire file to DeNaples' attorneys, Feeley said. In response to a recent request from the gaming board, the lawyers gave it to the agency.

DeNaples' lawyer, Richard A. Sprague of Philadelphia, told the Inquirer the perjury case against his client rests on lies told by reputed Northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Billy D'Elia.

Sprague said D'Elia lied when he told the grand jury that the D'Elia-DeNaples family relationship ran so deep that DeNaples gave his father's rosary beads to D'Elia after the elder DeNaples passed away. The rosary beads were black, not green, and are buried with the elder DeNaples, Sprague told the newspaper's editorial board.

Sprague also attacked D'Elia's testimony cited in the grand jury's Jan. 30 presentment that D'Elia's predecessor, the late Russell Bufalino, gave DeNaples the ring he was wearing after DeNaples complimented it while the pair were at the C&C Club in the early 1970s.

It never happened, said Sprague, who had asked to meet with the Inquirer's editorial board to complain about the way the newspaper's editorials had characterized DeNaples, who maintains his innocence. He has been barred from his own casino - and its profits - pending the outcome of the criminal case.

State police filed the four perjury charges against DeNaples, 67, accusing him of lying to Gaming Control Board agents about the extent of his relationships with D'Elia, Bufalino and two men at the center of a federal probe into corruption involving Philadelphia City Hall.

And before you go thinking DeNaples' was framed, remember he pleaded no contest to a federal felony in a 1978 fraud case, gave more than $1.1 million to the state's top elected officials in the years before he received his license, and FBI wiretaps are being used as evidence against him.

None of that also explains whether DeNaples attended the 1999 wedding of D'Elia's daughter, as D'Elia has also claimed. Stands to reason that if there was no friendly connection between the two of them, DeNaples might just have sent a gift and well wishes.

Better hope the feds, state police and/or Dauphin County prosecutors are going through the wedding album right now looking for DeNaples in group shots.

Nor does it explain why Tad Decker, the former chairman of the gaming board, refused to call D'Elia as a witness before the board unanimously voted to grant him a license on Dec. 20, 2006.

Decker told the Allentown Morning Call that someone - he refused to say who - told him that D'Elia would merely have evoked his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination if called. It wasn't D'Elia's lawyer, who said his client is eager to testify on this matter.

Decker and other Gaming Control Board members knew or should have known that the state police were investigating DeNaples for perjury before they issued him a license, according to testimony state police commander Jeffrey Miller gave the Legislature during budget hearings last month.

Since then, you can understand why Republicans in the Legislature are salivating for an official probe into DeNaples' licensing by a bipartisan committee with subpoena power. They also want reform for the state's four-year-old slots law.

One of the biggest impediments to slots reform, though, has been state Rep. Harold James (D-Philadelphia), majority chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. He has refused to move any slots-related legislation out of his committee for more than a year.

But the wheels in Slotsylvania go round and round - and James may now be hardpressed to win re-election this year.

State Rep. Harold James.According to the Inquirer: The state Supreme Court issued a three-sentence order Thursday overturning a ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner and ordered her to consider a challenge against James's nominating petitions, seeking to have him thrown off the April 22 primary ballot.

The original deadline for submitting signatures was Feb. 12, and the deadline for challenging them was seven days later.

But a raging snowstorm in central Pennsylvania kept some candidates from reaching the state election bureau in time, and Gov. Rendell extended the filing deadline from 5 p.m. on Feb. 12 to noon on Feb. 14. Challenges were due seven days later.

James's opponent, Kenyatta Johnson, challenged James's petitions on grounds that he improperly listed himself as the person circulating his petitions, when in fact they were circulated by other people.

Johnson filed the challenge in mid-afternoon on Feb. 21. James's attorney, John Sabatina, contended that the challenge should have been filed before noon. Ribner-Smith agreed and dismissed the challenge, without hearing any of Johnson's evidence on the alleged petition problems.

The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling yesterday that the challenge had been "timely filed" and remanding the James case for a hearing next Wednesday.

There is no known direct connection between DeNaples and state Rep. James.

However, one of James' biggest political contributors over the years was former state Rep. Mike Veon, who gave him a total of $5,000. Although Veon is now a lobbyist in Harrisburg for gambling and other interests, as a lawmaker he received at least $60,000 in contributions from DeNaples.

Veon also was head of the House Democratic Campaign Committee and used that position to push for gambling expansion along with now-House Majority Leader H. William DeWeese, who reportedly received $5,000 in contributions from DeNaples.

James' committee is sitting on a bill DeWeese wrote, H.B. 2121, which would turn all of the state's 14 slots parlors - seven of which are already operating - into full fledged casinos.


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

Labels: , , , , , , ,

 |  0 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, February 25, 2008
Posted 10:04 PM by

Never assume anything in Slotsylvania

Billy D'EliaHe may be bound by Omerta not to rat on other made guys, but reputed Northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Billy D'Elia would have gladly sung like a canary about his long-time friendship with now-indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.

But nobody - certainly not the Slotsylvania Gaming Control Board - ever subpoenaed him, D'Elia's attorney, James Swetz of Stroudsburg, has told The Morning Call of Allentown.

"He would have testified and he would have answered any questions truthfully that were posed to him about whether or not he knew Mr. DeNaples, and Bill has known him for 30 years," Swetz said.

Tad Decker, the out-of-control board's former chairman, said the regulators could have used their weak subpoena power to compel D'Elia's testimony, without the ability to grant immunity, "But we were told he would come and take the Fifth and he wouldn't testify."

He declined to tell the newspaper who told the board that.

Swetz said neither he nor his client did. "With all due respect to Mr. Decker, he may have assumed that Mr. D'Elia wouldn't testify, but he certainly never asked me that. And if he had, the answer may have surprised him."

It's partly because of his alleged relationship with D'Elia that DeNaples, a Dunmore billionaire, has been indicted for perjury for lying to the gaming board. DeNaples told both the board and a Dauphin County grand jury that he only knew D'Elia as "a guy from the neighborhood" who shopped at his auto parts store.

But Swetz said, "Mr. D'Elia's association with Louis DeNaples is not simply from across the auto parts counter, as Mr. DeNaples has stated. They've known each other for a long time."

D'Elia, who is in federal custody awaiting trial on charges of money laundering and conspiring to kill a witness, told the grand jury he had close ties to DeNaples as a friend and business associate. He said he frequently met with DeNaples at his private office at DeNaples Auto Parts in Dunmore and that DeNaples was a guest at the 1999 wedding of D'Elia's daughter.

Had D'Elia told gaming board investigators that, the board would not have issued DeNaples a slots license, Decker said. "Absolutely not."

Private investigators performing a background check on DeNaples for the board did ask to interview D'Elia, but Swetz said he directed them to federal prosecutors in Harrisburg and then never heard from the Gaming Control Board again.

So much for due diligence and the board's current theory that the state police's refusal to share criminal information is to blame for this mess.

In other Slotsylvania news:

  • Mafia book author Charles Brandt, who has read the grand jury presentments against DeNaples, told The Citizens Voice of Wilkes-Barre that Dauphin County prosecutors may have a hard time proving their perjury case. "I found the questions inartfully crafted, and they left lots of wiggle room," Brandt said.

  • DeNaples' spokesman, Philly PR guy Kevin Feeley, was profiled in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Among the other clients he's trying to spin is the city tax board which lost the file on Sen. Vince Fumo's $6 million mansion.

  • Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, the sole candidate to file for the Democratic party's nomination for state Attorney General, has begun to attack Republican incumbent Tom Corbett for accepting at least $35,000 in campaign contributions from DeNaples.

  • The Morning Call has caught on to my idea that state Rep. Harold James (D-Philadelphia) is purposely dragging his feet and refusing to bring any slots reform bills up for a vote in the House Gaming Oversight Committee he chairs.

  • Two of the bills the Oversight Committee has pigeonholed, H.B. 1715 and H.B. 1975, would require $1.5 million to $3.5 million from the state's rake of slots gambling be used to treat gambling addicts. Gaming Board Chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins testified last week that already 200 people across the state have excluded themselves from the state's seven open slots parlors. One of them is likely a woman who gambled away $573,000 at a Harrah's Chester Casino. She is now cited as a statistic in Casino-Free Philadelphia's Operation Hidden Costs, an anti-casino study it plans to unveil Wednesday.


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

Friday, February 15, 2008
Posted 8:44 PM by

Three for follow-up Friday

I hope this will become a continuing feature on The Daily Rant on Fridays, so I can empty my mind and my notebook of some incremental changes in stories I'm following.

Tad Decker finally gets it!

Tad DeckerIn a letter to the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, former Slotsylvania Gaming Board Chairman Tad Decker once again blames the state police for failing to turn over a transcript of an FBI wiretap before he and others unanimously approved a license for now-indicted slots parlor owner Louis DeNaples.

"By letter of Dec. 20, 2006, state police Commissioner Col. Jeffrey Miller advised the board that it was in a position to determine the suitability of all applicants, including Louis DeNaples, even though the state police now admit it knew at the time this statement was untrue," Decker wrote. "The state police's misrepresentation violated the act and its agreements with the board and the governor's office and did a terrible disservice to the commonwealth's citizens."

Decker later told the Associated Press, "Because of what (the state police) did, it was an embarrassment of issuing a license to someone who potentially - potentially - may have done something wrong in the process."

DeNaples now faces eight counts of perjury after a Dauphin County grand jury found that he lied to both them and the gaming board about his alleged ties to organized crime.

"Their own agents thought he was lying," Bruce Edwards, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, shot back in an article in today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Personally, I don't care what the state police letter said or about its pissing match with the control board, which hired private investigators instead of letting troopers handle the background investigations of slots parlor license applicants.

There was plenty of anecdotal evidence in the public domain (namely DeNaples' 1976 federal felony and his name appearing in Pennsylvania Crime Commission reports) tying DeNaples to reputed and indicted Northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Billy D'Elia. DeNaples also gave at least $115,000 in political contributions to Decker's "close friend," Gov. Ed Rendell.

That alone should have given Decker and the rest of the board pause before they embarrassed the state.

By the way, it was Rendell who appointed Decker, a Philadelphia attorney, to both the board and the chairmanship and it was Rendell who later defended him against allegations that Decker too had a conflict of interest with another slots parlor applicant.

In other Slotsylvania casino news:

  • New Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters Friday that his city budget does not count on any revenue from any of the seven slots parlots now operating within the state.

    "We know it's out there," Nutter said. "It's not in our pocket so we're not counting it."

    That's prudent plannning Mr. Mayor and I applaud you for it, even though part of that money is supposed to be used eventually to lower Philly's wage tax.

  • State Senator Jeffrey Piccola (R-Dauphin County) will deliver the keynote address at the 4th annual Pennsylvania Gaming Congress & Mid-Atlantic Racing Forum, February 25-26 at the Whitaker Center and Harrisburg Hilton.

    Piccola, a member of the senate's Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, unsuccessfully threatened to shut down the state amid budget talks last year while trying to reform the slots parlor law.

    Mary DiGiacomo ColinsGaming Board Chairwoman and former Philly judge Mary DiGiacomo Colins was supposed to deliver that address. However, she withdrew after the CEO of the event's sponsor, Fred Gushin of Spectrum Gaming Group of New Jersey, openly criticized the board's licensing process.

    Gushin told The Morning Call of Allentown in September that the control board's licensing of applicants was "an overtly political process instead of an exercise in regulatory control. It was a disaster in the making."

  • Monthly casino revenue was down 10 percent in January in Atlantic City, marking the 12th month out of the last 13 that revenues have fallen, the Associated Press reported this week. Last year was the first in the 30-year history of A.C. casino gambling that revenues decreased from the previous year.

N.J. student loan agency gets a monitor, freespending PHEAA doesn't.

New Jersey Attorney General Ann Milgram has appointed an independent monitor to watchover the state's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority after a state investigation found troublesome lending practices, including the steering of students to Sallie Mae loans.

HESAA and 41 New Jersey colleges have also agreed that their financial aid officers will no longer take gifts from loan companies. Milgram said gifts in the past have given some lenders an unfair inside track.

No one knows if that is happening across the river, but we may know by June when state Auditor Gener Jack Wagner is expected to complete his first-ever audit of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority.

PHEAA has spent millions over the years rewarding its executives with hefty bonuses, expensive trips for its lawmaker-dominated board and even renting all of HersheyPark for a day. Yet, despite Rendell calling it "a disaster" and threatening to privatize the authority, only internal changes have been made.

Pink pig dreams deflated.

Gene StilpGovernment reform activist Gene Stilp, who became famous for floating a giant inflatable pink pig in Harrisburg after the 2005 legislative pay raise, has ended his candidacy for the 104th state House seat in Dauphin County, citing personal reasons.

Last Friday, Stilp, 57, of Middle Paxton Township, said "emerging family health issues" would keep him from devoting the necessary time to his campaign to unseat incumbent state Rep. Sue Helm.

My thoughts are with him and his family.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 |  0 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Posted 10:53 PM by

The Rendell lynch mob is forming up

Slotsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, no stranger to putting his foot in his mouth by word or deed, may very well be heading towards the biggest political crisis of his career.

This from a guy who once said Bill Clinton should resign the presidency amid the height of Slick Willie's impeachment for the Monica Lewinsky scandal while he was still running the Democratic National Committee.

Now that he's a lame-duck governor, entering the second year of his final term, Big Ed is so desperate for the national stage that he's willing to look the fool. But if he's not careful, the large hook may come out and bring down the curtain on his vaudevillian act.

During a newspaper tour last week to push his mildly-hated 2008-09 proposed budget, Fast-lipped Eddie let it slip with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he doesn't think Barack Obama can win the Democratic nomination for president in Pennsylvania because of his race.

Rendell, who supports Hillary Clinton (How's that for irony?), told the newspaper's editorial board, "You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate."

That's Rendell, tactful as ever. Now his remark is getting national play thanks to the Associated Press picking up on it.

Is he wrong? No. Is he impolitic? Absolutely. Our state may have more than its quotient of rednecks, but no one likes to be told to their faces that they're ignorant and intolerant.

Even the Clintons' long-time political adviser, James Carville, showed better taste when he once described Pennsylvania as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between."

Chuck Ardo, the governor's spokesman, tried to spin it Tuesday when pressed. "He was simply making an observation about the unfortunate nature of some parts of American society," Ardo told the AP. "He wasn't being critical, he wasn't making accusations, but just being realistic."

While the national media may or may not eat Rendell's lunch the next few days for his latest gaffe, the once-popular governor better start worrying about his approval ratings back home if he hopes to have any future pull in this state - even though he's still sitting on a campaign war chest of $2.25 million with which to play kingmaker by donating to other candidate's campaigns.

I may sound like the lone crank in the wilderness at times attacking Rendell for taking at least $115,000 in campaign contributions from now-indicted slot parlor owner Louis DeNaples, but the people of this state have a pretty good nose for bullshit.

Many now feel the governor has pulled a bait-and-switch with slot machine gambling, promising all homeowners would benefit from the state's increased revenue through lower school property taxes and a cap on what districts could spend. A tax reform promise Rendell now has no plans to deliver without hiking income or sales taxes for everyone - or dare I say it - turning the slots parlors into full-fledged casinos.

That's why during my day job as an online content editor I wasn't surprised this morning by a lettter-to-the-editor to the Bucks County Courier Times that calls for Rendell's impeachment.

William Gallagher, a resident of Bensalem - home of the Philadelphia Park Casino and Racetrack, wrote, "Over the last few years I have read letters calling for the removal of President Bush from office because the writers hate him. I would like to see Gov. Rendell impeached for not keeping his word about casino revenues.

"He has raised taxes for social programs that mainly benefit Philadelphia. And the people who live along Interstate 80 will pay for the Philadelphia transport unions' high demands and broken system.

"Finally, the biggest insult to injury is that Bensalem's school board is proposing a large tax increase even though there is a casino located in the township that rakes in millions of dollars a week."

That very slots parlor got approval to build its standalone casino Monday - and the biggest question wasn't whether to build it, but if its construction would be a union-only work site. It will.

Meanwhile, in Grantville near Harrisburg this morning the state's seventh slots parlor - Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course - opened its doors for the first time. The $260 million facility has 2,000 slot machines, and is designed to accommodate 5,000 machines.

And up in the Poconos, the quarters continue to fall into DeNaples' Mount Airy Casino Resort without its owner being there because he's barred from the place until he can beat back eight perjury charges for lying about his alleged mob ties to the state Gaming Control Board.

The federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have now also barred DeNaples from the bank he built, First National Community Bancorp Inc., the AP reported Tuesday.

Federal law allows banking regulators to ban officials from holding positions at banks when they are charged with breaking state or federal laws "where the charge may threaten to impair public confidence" in the bank, the OCC said. The suspension is in effect as long as the charges against DeNaples are pending or until terminated by the OCC.

DeNaples, the bank's chairman and largest shareholder with 10 percent of its shares, took what he thought was a temporary leave of absence from the institution on Feb. 6 - a full week after he was indicted by the Dauphin County grand jury.

This one's for you, Chuck Ardo!The 67-year-old Dunmore billlionaire need not be too worried about finding other work. As far as I know, auto parts dealers and landfills don't have such high standards.

Come to think of it neither does his friend, Rendell.

By the way, Ardo once tried to spin that too, saying, he could see no connection between the governor and reputed Northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss Billy D'Elia through DeNaples. "Given the six degrees of separation like that, I can associate you with Mr. D'Elia," Ardo said.


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

Labels: , , , , , ,

 |  0 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Posted 11:36 PM by

DeNaples arraigned in near-empty Slotsylvania courtroom

The statewide media missed Louis DeNaples' arraignment Wednesday, just as they've missed his political connections to Slotsylvania's power elite.It seems ironic that casino owner Louis DeNaples was arraigned Wednesday in a near-empty courtroom one tumultuous week after he was indicted on perjury charges for allegedly lying about his mob ties to a Dauphin County grand jury and the state Gaming Control Board.

But hey, that's what happens when the prosecutor lets you turn yourself in to face the charge at your earliest convenience, not the media's.

And so the public hearing went on, away from the TV cameras, photo-ops and spectacle that have dogged the 67-year-old Dunmore billionaire since last Wednesday.

The best an Associated Press reporter could do was talk to the Dauphin County court clerk's office afterward and learn that no filings resulted from the proceedings. District Attorney Ed Marsico, who has been accused by DeNaples' lawyers of grandstanding, didn't return phone calls and the office of Judge Todd Hoover would not release details about DeNaples' court appearance.

The AP did talk to Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for DeNaples, who said defense attorney Richard Sprague moved for a jury trial and asked for materials in the possession of prosecutors that may or may not have been presented to the grand jury, as well as transcripts of the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses - including indicted alleged mob boss Billy D'Elia. No preliminary hearing date has been set.

Other media accounts tonight have simply quoted or used the AP.

Reporters playing catch-up is nothing new here in Slotsylvania.

For instance, not a single newspaper connected the financial dots yesterday between Anthony Ceddia, the newly appointed trustee running DeNaples' casino now that he's barred from it, and state Gaming Control Board member Jeff Coy. (The linkage was Ceddia's $950 in political contributions to Coy when he was still a state representative.)

However, Dave Janoski, projects editor at the Citizens Voice in Wilkes-Barre and a former Times-Leader co-worker during my time there, did manage to find another Coy-Ceddia connection. Coy was on Shippensburg University's board while Ceddia was its president.

In fact, Coy was the chairman of the trustees at Shipp and served on the search committee that selected Ceddia, who became the longest serving president in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education with 23 years of service before he retired in 2005. Both also served together on the Orrstown Bank board of directors.

Mary DiGiacomo Colins, the Gaming Control Board's chairwoman, told Janoski that Ceddia has had relationships with several members of the control board.

Such time-consuming Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon games are often necessary to understand why politicians behave the way they do - like handing a $300 to $800 an hour job (Colins didn't even know how much) to a former university president without any kind of public hiring process.

Colins told The Morning Call of Allentown that the seven-member gaming board began considering trustees several weeks ago amid speculation of a DeNaples arrest and that Ceddia was among 10 to 12 individuals reviewed.

Who the rest were, how they were contacted, by whom and why Ceddia was finally selected is anyone's guess. That's nothing new, really. The control board has been mired since its 2004 inception on public allegations that most of its workings have been cloaked in politics and backroom deals with some of the biggest powerbrokers and deepest pockets in the state.

Why the hiring process could not be done in full public view is a question that should be posed not only to the control board, but every legislator in the state and Gov. Ed Rendell, whose gubernatorial campaign accepted $115,000 in contributions from DeNaples.

DeNaples' Mount Airy casino will pay Ceddia's hourly fee, whatever it is, plus liability insurance for him and must agree not to hold Ceddia responsible if his decisions as trustee harm the resort, Colins told the newspaper.

So Ceddia's taking the money and not the blame if he screws up. Wonderful.

One attorney for DeNaples, John Donnelly, publicly objected to Ceddia's appointment Tuesday - and not because of the secret way it was carried out.

"The Gaming Control Act does not permit the board to appoint trustees," said Donnelly, a lawyer in Atlantic City.

The act doesn't forbid them. In fact, it doesn't say anything.

Legislators never envisioned this happening when they approved the 146-page act in one-night, without public comment on the eve of the July 4, 2004 holiday.

However, it was easily predictable given their haste to ram-rod it into law by gutting a pre-approved and unrelated two paragraph bill about background checks for harness racing employees - then getting the state Supreme Court to say the method was perfectly legal (possibly in exchange for judicial raises).

I've always found sunlight to be a most effective disenfectant in such matters and will continue shining what little I can muster with what time I can devote.

To that end, let me acknowledge a mistake in yesterday's blog. I wrote in both a cutline and one sentence that Ceddia was president of Susquehanna University, which is an expensive private college. He headed Shippensburg University, a state-owned school. Although I did have it right later in the blog, I corrected both boneheaded (and sleep-deprived) mistakes this morning. Weirdly, nobody else even noticed it except Google, which picked up the erroneous cutline.

Here's one somebody did. The initial post of this blog said Donnelly was a control board member based solely on my misreading of a Tribune-Review article. I should have double-checked his name with the control board's Web site. I regret that mistake, as I do all of them.


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

Labels: , , , ,

 |  2 comments  |  |  RSS Feed | Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, June 02, 2006
Posted 8:54 PM by

D'Elia indictment raises Pa. slots question again

After 20 years of official suspicion but no charges, alleged mob boss William 'Big Bill' D'Elia was finally indicted in a money laundering scheme. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday.It took 20 years, but the feds finally indicted reputed northeastern Pennsylvania mob boss William "Big Bill" D'Elia this week for allegedly money laundering somebody else's drug profits.

Word of the indictment, which was unsealed Thursday after being filed May 24, came in today's newspapers on the last day the state's Gaming Control Board was to accept public comment on two proposals for standalone slot machine parlors in the Poconos.

One of the slots hopefuls, Dunmore banker, landfill owner and auto parts dealer Louis DeNaples, has alleged ties to D'Elia, 59, the alleged head of the Pittston-based Buffalino crime family.

DeNaples' spokesman Kevin Feeley denied the accusation at an April hearing of the Gaming Board on his proposal for gambling at Mount Airy Lodge, saying, "He has no ties to organized crime."

But in 2001, the IRS filed an affidavit in U.S. District Court outlining contacts and "good will" and protection money DeNaples allegedly paid to D'Elia. Neither man was charged with any wrongdoing.

Why would DeNaples pay D'Elia protection money?

In 1989, Harold Kaufman, a former union official, told the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission that D'Elia was a mob power broker in the solid-waste landfill industry in upstate Pennsylvania.

DeNaples owns the Keystone Landfill, one of the state's largest, near Scranton. He is also an alleged felon.

In 1978, DeNaples received a suspended sentence. 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. In 1990, the 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.

Is the state Gaming Control Board even investigating the alleged long-term ties between Bill D'Elia, the reputed head of the Buffalino crime family, and slots hopeful Louis DeNaples?Between 2000 and 2004, DeNaples and two of his companies allegedly donated more than $1 million to the state's top politicians - including Gov. Ed Rendell, Attorney General Tom Corbett, judges and leading state legislators, the Scranton Times-Tribune has reported. I've only been able to confirm contributions totaling $679,375.

But state records do show that DeNaples gave $115,000 towards Rendell's election in 2002.

Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo said Friday he could see no connection between the governor and D'Elia through DeNaples. "Given the six degrees of separation like that, I can associate you with Mr. D'Elia," Ardo said.

Actually, I've already said I've met D'Elia but not DeNaples. It was only for a moment and, I'm sure, entirely forgetable to the former mob driver turned alleged mob kingpin. D'Elia 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.

A slots fan, D'Elia was banned from Atlantic City's casinos in 2003 by the New Jersey attorney general's office.

"Given the six degrees of separation like that, I can associate you with Mr. D'Elia."

- Chuck Ardo
Spokesman for
Gov. Ed Rendell
D'Elia and co-defendant Richard Smallacombe both pleaded innocent at their arraignment Wednesday and were released on the condition they have no contact with people named in the indictment.

According to the indictment, D'Elia and Smallacombe laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money from convicted trafficker John Doncses, allegedly by creating bogus companies, loans and consulting agreements that made it appear as if the money was legitimately earned.

Labels: , , , ,

 |  0 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.