Mastronardo Brothers Charged With Gambling Ring

Thursday, Apr 1, 2010  |  Updated 8:58 PM EDT
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John and Jospeh Mastronardo find themselves in a heap of trouble after they are charged with running a sports betting ring.

NBCPhiladelphia - Deanna Durante, Greg Durgin

John and Jospeh Mastronardo find themselves in a heap of trouble after they are charged with running a sports betting ring.

John and Joseph Mastronardo were charged Thursday with running an extensive sports-gambling ring, a day after police dug up a suburban Philadelphia yard looking for buried cash, their lawyer said.

The Mastronardos were being held on $1 million bail on charges filed in Montgomery County.

Police and FBI agents used a backhoe to search the backyard of the suburban Philadelphia mansion where Joseph Mastronardo, 60, lives with his wife, Joanna. She is the daughter of the late Frank L. Rizzo, the two-term Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner.

The Mastronardos were charged with running a corrupt organization, money laundering and related charges, defense lawyer Dennis Cogan said. Although the charges were filed in state court, Cogan expects the case to be moved to federal court given the interstate nature of the alleged crimes.

Joseph Mastronardo, who was convicted in 1987 on federal gambling charges, once ran a gambling operation that grossed $50 million a year, according to a 1990 report by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Both brothers served short jail stints after a 2006 state investigation into sports bets they took through a Web site. They each pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, while also agreeing to forfeit $2.7 million authorities had seized.

Authorities have again seized money from various places and frozen bank accounts in several states, Cogan said. The arrests follow a lengthy investigation that included wiretaps, he said.

“There were tape recordings that they have. They were intercepting conversations which (involved) gambling activity, with bookmaking or high-level betting,” Cogan said.

Cogan, who has represented the brothers for years, said there is a fine line between legal and illegal betting. The Mastronardos have sometimes been cleared of similar charges in the past, he said.

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman did not immediately return a call for comment, and court papers were not available after hours. According to Cogan, police filed a 43-page affidavit of probable cause, but he said he had not yet seen it.

Police could be seen pulling canisters out of the ground at Joseph Mastronardo's home in Meadowbrook during the daylong search Wednesday. John Mastronardo, an All-American football player at Villanova University, who according to Cogan was drafted but later cut by the Philadelphia Eagles, lives in Blue Bell. He later worked in the homebuilding industry, the lawyer said.

“They have legitimate businesses, and always have,” Cogan said.

The brothers earned the nickname of “Gentleman Gamblers” because of their treatment of gamblers who fail to pay up, he said. Instead of resorting to violence, they simply refused to let the person place any more bets, he said.

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