Father, son plead guilty in Mastronardo gambling case

PHILADELPHIA - February 1, 2014

Joseph Mastronardo Jr. and his son, Joey, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court. They were charged with using offshore accounts and other means to launder gambling proceeds from a huge sports betting organization. Joseph "Joe Vito" Mastronardo is married to the late Mayor Frank Rizzo's daughter, Joanna.

Joseph's brother, John Mastronardo, a one-time All-American football player at Villanova University, is due to appear at a plea hearing on Monday.

Sixteen people were indicted after authorities found more than $1 million in cash buried in PVC pipes in the front yard of the couple's sprawling suburban home.

Dennis Cogan, a lead lawyer on the case, confirmed that about a dozen defendants charged with racketeering and gambling have agreed to take part in a "global plea," requiring that all of them plead guilty. Cogan, who was in the hospital, could not elaborate. The Philadelphia Daily News first reported Wednesday on the arrangement. Details of the plea were not available on the court's online docket, and a lead prosecutor did not immediately return a message for comment.

The deal does not include Joanna Mastronardo, who is charged with the lesser crime of "structuring" bank deposits to avoid reporting rules. Her lawyer, William J. Brennan, told The Associated Press that she does not have a plea hearing scheduled.

The brothers earned the nickname of "Gentleman Gamblers" because of their policy toward gamblers who fail to pay up. Instead of resorting to violence, they refuse to let them place more bets, Cogan has said.

The indictment unsealed last year alleges that the Mastronardos ran a multi-million-dollar gambling ring with ties to Florida, New Jersey and Costa Rica. At its peak, more than 1,000 active bettors took part, placing online or telephone bets.

Joseph Mastronardo, who was convicted in 1987 on federal gambling charges, once ran a gambling operation that grossed $50 million a year, according to a 1990 report by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Cogan has represented the brothers for years, and has argued that there's a fine line between legal and illegal betting.

"They have legitimate businesses and always have," Cogan said in 2010, when the FBI used backhoes to dig up the Mastronardos' yard in Meadowbrook, Montgomery County.


Information from The Associated Press was used in the writing of this article.

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