Late Philly Mayor's Daughter Spared in Gambling Case

The daughter of a former Philadelphia mayor is likely to go free in the latest gambling prosecution of her husband, who ran a huge bookmaking operation that took high-dollar sports bets online or through offshore call centers.

Joanna Mastronardo, daughter of the late Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, will have a banking charge dropped if more than a dozen other defendants plead guilty to racketeering and illegal gambling charges, a judge confirmed Tuesday.

Her husband, Joseph "Joe Vito" Mastronardo Sr., and 31-year-old son, Joseph F. "Joey" Mastronardo, pleaded guilty to those charges and money laundering on Friday. U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois pledged Tuesday to drop her case after they are sentenced. No sentencing dates have been set.

A 2012 raid of Joseph and Joanna Mastronardo's sprawling estate in the Philadelphia suburb of Abington turned up $1.1 million in cash in the yard, and more money hidden inside.

Joanna Mastronardo's husband, who is in his 60s and has recently battled cancer and a stroke, could face about three years in prison, while prosecutors will recommend her son serve no more than 15 months.

"It was probably bittersweet for my client," Joanna Mastronardo's lawyer, William J. Brennan, said Tuesday of the "global plea agreement." Under the agreement, the first of its kind in eastern Pennsylvania, the deal would be undone if any of the defendants back out.

"We are certainly pleased that her case will likely be dismissed, but she faces the prospect of her only son and husband facing prison. She's very concerned and troubled by that," Brennan said.

Joseph Mastronardo and his brother, John, have been convicted twice before of gambling-related charges — once in federal court, with their father, in the 1980s, and again in suburban Montgomery County in 2006. Joseph Mastronardo was convicted of racketeering in the first case, though acquitted of other counts.

"He knew 30 years ago that this was illegal, and he knows today," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bologna said Tuesday.

Mastronardo's operation laundered money in a variety of ways, through check cashing agencies, private bank accounts and wiring money overseas, he said. The organization took in as much as $10 million a year and perhaps more, officials said.

"Not only did they launder enormous sums of money, they laundered it in a variety of different ways," Bologna said.

Co-defendant Kenneth Cohen, a retired financial broker, pleaded guilty to the racketeering and illegal gambling charges Tuesday, becoming the latest person to do so. His lawyer, Anthony Petrone, declined comment.

John Mastronardo, who was in court, said he intended to plead guilty at a hearing Thursday. The former All-American football player at Villanova University would face a recommended sentence of nine months in prison, according to defense lawyer Dennis Cogan. He said his client was not a leader in the organization.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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