PA Lawmaker Caught Up in Illegal Gambling Investigation Wiretap

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Associated Press
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PA Lawmaker Caught Up in Illegal Gambling Investigation Wiretap

GLASSPORT, Pa. — (Associated Press) - A western Pennsylvania lawmaker overheard on a wiretap telling the suspected ringleader of an illegal gambling operation that he would conceal a complaint about the man's video poker machines says he has cooperated with investigators and tried to help the person who complained about the machines.

State Rep. Marc Gergely, D-Allegheny, broke his silence Monday on the wiretap information disclosed last week before the House Democratic Caucus.

In a four-paragraph statement, Gergely said he got a letter in November from a woman who claimed to be a constituent, complaining her husband had gambled away all their money. Gergely said he tried to refer the woman to Gamblers Anonymous and to state troopers who investigate gambling complaints, but his staff couldn't reach her because she didn't have voicemail. The woman was actually an undercover state investigator.

Gergely, who has not been charged, was heard on the wiretap calling Ronald "Porky" Melocchi, 54, the target of the gambling investigation, and telling him about the complaint, according to court documents.

Gergely promised Melocchi, who is charged with running the illegal video poker operation through his Glassport-based Back Alley Vending, he would not pass the complaint along to authorities, the affidavit said.

"Are they going to turn it in ... (to the state police's Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement)?" Melocchi asked during the recorded conversation.

"Who me? Not me," Gergely replied. "I just want to take care of you. She obviously has no idea that we have a connection. Maybe you guys can identify ... who the guy is and get him stopped ... before something becomes a problem, OK?"

Melocchi, Forward Township police Chief Mark Holtzman, McKeesport Councilman Daniel K. Carr, two former McKeesport police officers and 11 others are charged in the ring. Investigators raided 70 bars, homes, banks and other locations in December, seizing 350 poker machines and about $1 million, according to court documents.

Melocchi, who faces a preliminary hearing Thursday, doesn't have an attorney listed in online court records and didn't return a message left on his home voicemail.

Melocchi donated $3,000 to Gergely's election campaigns since 2006, but the lawmaker said he has since donated a similar amount to Positive Pathways, a for-profit Pittsburgh business that helps people with gambling addictions.

A spokesman for the attorney general wouldn't say if the lawmaker or any others are under investigation.

Gergely's statement said his office has cooperated with investigators including providing dates and times his staff tried to contact the woman about her complaint.

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