Casino owner arraigned on perjury charges

February 6, 2008 5:47:32 PM PST
A northeastern Pennsylvania businessman accused of lying to win a state casino license appeared in court Wednesday for a preliminary arraignment on perjury charges, the judge's clerk said.

Louis A. DeNaples, who won a casino license in December 2006 and opened Mount Airy Casino Resort in October, showed up in Dauphin County Court. However, the office of Judge Todd Hoover would not release details about DeNaples' court appearance.

The court clerk's office said no filings had resulted as of yet from the hearing, and Dauphin County prosecutors did not return telephone calls.

Defense attorney Richard Sprague asked for a jury trial, although no date for a preliminary hearing has been set, said Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for DeNaples.

Sprague also asked for materials in the possession of prosecutors that may or may not have been presented to the grand jury, as well as transcripts of the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, Feeley said.

Those witnesses include William D'Elia, the reputed head of a Scranton-area organized crime family. DeNaples, a major political and philanthropic donor, allegedly lied to state gambling investigators about the extent of his relationships with four men, including D'Elia, the late organized crime boss Russell Bufalino and two men at the center of a federal corruption probe in Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved DeNaples for a license, unaware that state police were investigating a perjury case against him at the time. Still, the charges have prompted calls from Republican legislators and the state troopers' union to put the state police or the attorney general's office in charge of screening casino license applicants, in place of the gaming board.

On Tuesday, Sprague attended a gaming board hearing and told the panel that his client is innocent and is being scapegoated by state police and sympathetic prosecutors who want to embarrass the agency. State police and Dauphin County prosecutors have said they are solely interested in protecting the integrity of the state's fledgling gambling industry.

Despite Sprague's claims, the gaming board upheld an emergency suspension of DeNaples' license, and said the suspension would remain in effect until the charges are resolved.

The suspension bars him from controlling, entering or profiting from his $412 million casino. The gaming board also appointed a trustee to oversee the casino while DeNaples is suspended, although a lawyer for DeNaples said the powers granted to the trustee overstepped the gaming board's legal authority.

DeNaples, however, escaped the more serious penalty of losing his $50 million license, a penalty the gaming board has the power to level if the panel feels misled by an applicant.