Sixteen charged in Montco-based sports betting ring

Sixteen people, including the daughter of the late mayor Frank Rizzo, have been charged as part of a multimillion sports betting ring based in Montgomery County.

Authorities unsealed an indictment alleging that brothers Joseph Vito Mastronardo and John Mastronardo led the Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization and that, during its height, the organization had 1,000 bettors and generated millions of dollars a year.

Montgomery County authorities investigated the operation two years ago, but turned it over to federal investigators.

According to the indictment, between January 2005 and January 2011, the organization used Internet websites and telephone numbers that allowed bettors to place bets on football, baseball, basketball, golf, horse racing, and other sporting events. The websites and phone numbers were staffed by employees in Costa Rica.

The indictment further alleges that bettors would set up accounts through agents or sub-agents who lived in the United States. Bettors were not required to put money in the account in order to place bets, but could begin placing bets immediately on credit. Bettors would meet with members of the organization in person, often in public places, to collect or deliver payments for the bets.

“This alleged racketeering operation was anchored in Montgomery County, but had tentacles spreading across the U.S. and beyond,” Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said. “Despite our attempt to shut it down in 2006-2007 with a Montgomery County prosecution, my office discovered that the defendants, as is alleged in the indictment, were back in business.”

John Mastronardo and Joseph Vito Mastronardo hid large sums of money in and around their homes, according to the indictment. In 2006, authorities recovered more than $1.4 million in secretly-built compartments, and in 2010 they retrieved more than $1.1 million in PVC pipes buried outside John Vito Mastranardo’s home.

The members allegedly communicated by telephone, e-mail, text message, Skype and in person to maintain the operation.

Joanna Mastranardo, the wife of Joseph Vito Mastranardo, daughter of the late Frank Rizzo and sister of former City Councilman Frank Rizzo, is the only defendant not charged with racketeering conspiracy, but instead faces charges on structuring. The indictment states that she made roughly 72 deposits in amounts less than $10,000, totaling more than $500,000 in a year. Also charged in the conspiracy is her son, Joseph F. Mastranardo.

The other defendants facing charges are Eric Woehlcke, Harry Murray, Joseph Vitelli, Anna Rose Vitelli, Patrick Tronoski, Edward Feighan, Kenneth Cohen, Schuyler Twaddle, Michael Loftus, Michael Squillante, David Rounick, Ronald Gendrachi.

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