Father-Son Led Pittsburgh Gambling Ring Dismantled

  • Father and son pleaded guilty to operating illegal lotteries and overseeing a corrupt organization
  • Both received ten years probation and each must pay $225,000 as a forfeiture of funds
  • Another $75,000 needs to be paid to cover the cost of five wiretaps
  • Eleven others were also charged relating to the illegal gambling operation
  • Robert Iannelli had links to the LaRocca-Genovese crime group in Pittsburgh
Hands exchanging money in darkness
A long-running illegal gambling operation based in Pittsburgh has been dismantled, with the father-son leaders pleading guilty. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Taking down the leaders

The father-son leaders of an illegal gambling ring in Western Pennsylvania have pleaded guilty to running the operation. The father’s involvement in illegal gambling dates back more than half a century.

90-year-old Robert “Bobby I” Iannelli and his 60-year-old son Robert “Rusty” Iannelli entered guilty pleas on September 16 in Westmoreland County to charges of operating illegal lotteries in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, as well as overseeing a corrupt organization. 

sentenced both of the men to ten years probation

Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio sentenced both of the men to ten years probation as per the negotiated plea bargains. They must also pay $225,000 each as a forfeiture of the funds they got from the illegal gambling operation. Another $75,000 is to be jointly paid for the cost of the five wiretaps that the state investigators used during their six month operation, ending in April 2017. 

Once the court-ordered payments have been made, the judge will terminate the probation periods for both men. They have committed to paying the initial $75,000 inside of two weeks, with further payments coming in October. The judge outlined that there will need to be $1,000 in payments delivered every month.

Deputy Attorney General Mark Serge described the gambling operation as “substantial.”

Grand jury investigation

Eleven other individuals were also charged along with the Iannellis following a grand jury investigation that began in 2015, led by the state’s attorney general’s office. Court records detail how the Iannellis were using a local wedding vendor as a way to launder the illegal gambling money.

Three other men pleaded guilty on Wednesday for their roles in the illegal gambling operation. 70-year-old John Harkins pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy relating to the gambling operation. He has to pay a fine of $1,000 and forfeit $5,500 that was seized upon his arrest. 

Two other men from Westmoreland County also pleaded guilty to partaking in the illegal operation. Victor Machitello and Frank Joseph Pasquino both admitted to operating illegal lotteries over the course of six months, concluding in April 2017. Deputy Attorney General Serge said that the two men were running independent illegal gambling operations and would transfer some of the bigger wagers over to the Iannellis. 

Four other members of the operation pleaded guilty in July, with another four to appear on Friday in front of Judge Bilik-DeFazio.

Links to organized crime

Robert Iannelli was identified through a Pennsylvania Crime Commission report in 1990 as being an associate of the LaRocca-Genovese organized crime group in Pittsburgh.

prosecuted for his role in multimillion dollar illegal sports betting operations

Prosecutors laid out his numerous gambling arrests dating as far back as the 1950s. He was prosecuted for his role in multimillion dollar illegal sports betting operations in both the 1970s and the 1990s. 

Robert Iannelli was in a wheelchair during his court appearance and was using an oxygen tank to aid his breathing. His defense attorney noted that Iannelli currently lives in Florida and Pittsburgh and has a heart condition.