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Attorney Charged in Connection with Mon Valley Gambling Ring

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
October 06, 2016
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A Pittsburgh attorney who state investigators say was part of a self-proclaimed "Super PAC" run by accused video poker czar Ronald "Porky" Melocchi now faces criminal charges of his own.

Louis F. Caputo, 39, of Peters Twp., Washington County, was arraigned today before Magisterial District Judge Tom Swan in West Deer Twp. on charges of illegal use of gambling devices, criminal solicitation of gambling devices and criminal conspiracy.

He remains free on his own recognizance pending a formal arraignment Nov. 28 in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

State Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer said that according to a grand jury investigation, Caputo, a liquor license attorney, and state Rep. Marc Gergely of White Oak were part of what Melocchi called his "Super PAC," meaning political action committee.

Gergely, 46, was charged Feb. 25 with being associated of a corrupt organization, conspiracy to operate illegal gambling devices, criminal attempt to operate illegal gambling devices, dealing in the proceeds of illegal activities, and accepting illegal cash contributions to an election campaign.

Gergely is running for re-election. He is being challenged in the Nov. 8 general election by McKeesport city Councilwoman Fawn Walker-Montgomery, who won the Republican nomination as a write-in.

Gergely is free on his own recognizance pending a trial Dec. 5 before Allegheny County Judge Ed Borkowski.

The grand jury and state prosecutors allege that if Melocchi wanted to put a video poker machine into a bar or restaurant, Gergely and Caputo would meet with the restaurant owners and encourage them to cooperate.

According to his website, Caputo specializes in Pennsylvania alcoholic beverage laws, including liquor licenses for bars and restaurants, and also serves as a counsel for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority.

The grand jury alleged that Caputo and Gergely were part of what Melocchi called his "Super PAC," meaning Melocchi introduced the two men to others "as a show of strength in terms of the people with whom he had a connection."

According to the grand jury presentment, Caputo would advise bar and restaurant owners on "any legal issues relative to their liquor license and/or the placement of illegal video gambling devices within their business."

The grand jury presentment also alleges that Caputo told the owner of a bar in Neville Twp. that if he agreed to allow video poker machines on the property, Caputo would use his contacts within the Pennsylvania State Police's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement to learn of any potential raids.

"We'll already know before anything would happen," Caputo is accused of telling the bar owner in Neville.

Despite those assurances, the grand jury presentment alleges, the bar was raided less than a month later.

Beemer today said that Caputo used his position as an attorney to "aid and protect the illegal gambling enterprise" of Melocchi.

Melocchi, 57, of West Newton pleaded guilty in 2014 to running a corrupt organization, operating illegal gambling devices and bookmaking.

He was sentenced in 2015 to 10 years' probation. In December 2012, state agents raided clubs, bars and restaurants throughout the Mon Valley, seizing more than 300 video gambling machines and $1 million in cash.

Investigators also discovered evidence of illegal lotteries and sports betting.

Following the raid, state officials in September 2013 charged Melocchi and 15 other people, including a former McKeesport city councilman and a former Forward Twp. police chief, for their alleged roles in helping Melocchi.

All of them have now pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

Beemer said Caputo was recorded on court-approved wiretaps calling a contact within the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement to obtain the name of an informant who had complained about a bar in McKeesport that had poker machines.

According to the grand jury, the information was obtained in an effort by Melocchi, Gergely and Caputo to convince the bar's owner to put illegal gambling machines in her business, Beemer said.

Beemer said the investigation that led to charges against Caputo was conducted by the attorney general's office and the Pennsylvania State Police, and that the investigation is ongoing.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Mark A. Serge of the Office of Attorney General's Organized Crime Section, Beemer said.

Originally published October 06, 2016.

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