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Another 'Pork Chop' defendant gets probation

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 3:01 a.m.

A West Mifflin man is the latest to get probation for his role in a McKeesport gambling ring state prosecutors called “Operation Pork Chop.”

But Timothy J. Minkus, 32, may go to jail in another case heard Tuesday by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel.

Minkus had two nonjury trials before McDaniel. In one he admitted guilt to setting up a numbers or lottery game and a gambling devices charge, both allegedly in the service of Ronald “Porky” Melocchi, 56, of Belle Vernon.

“Sentence is two years probation,” said Carolyn E. Myers, spokeswoman for Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.

Senior deputy attorney general Michael M. Ahwesh withdrew felony counts of employment in a corrupt organization, conspiring to use proceeds from such an organization and dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activities, as well as a misdemeanor conspiracy count.

In the other case, Minkus was tried on nine traffic counts filed by Duquesne police on June 19, 2013, including a second-degree felony count of aggravated assault while driving under the influence.

“Minkus entered a general plea of guilty to all the charges with the exception of aggravated assault, which was changed to recklessly endangering another person,” said Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. “Sentencing will be on Aug. 25 and there is no agreement to sentencing.”

Reckless endangerment is a second-degree misdemeanor. Minkus was charged as well with three DUI counts, two of them first-degree misdemeanors, one a second-degree, and summary counts of careless and reckless driving, failure to stop at a red signal, driving at an unsafe speed and failure to stay in the right lane.

McDaniel set sentencing in that case for Aug. 19 at 1:30 p.m. Monroeville attorney Patrick Thomassey, who represented Minkus in both, could not be reached for comment.

Minkus is the seventh “Pork Chop” defendant to receive probation out of 16 indicted last September. Eight will go before three Common Pleas judges next week.

On Tuesday, retired McKeesport police Lt. Arthur D. Pero, 57, will go before Judge Beth A. Lazzara for a non-jury trial on two misdemeanor counts of setting up lotteries.

On the following day, McKeesport Councilman Daniel K. Carr is scheduled to enter a plea before Judge Joseph K. Williams III, who sentenced five defendants to probation on April 17. Mark Novakovich, 56, of White Oak is scheduled for a nonjury trial before Williams on a misdemeanor count of allowing gambling at his Twin Oaks restaurant.

Before Judge Donald E. Machen, Clairton Municipal Authority member James A. Cerqua, 58, of Clairton (three felonies, four misdemeanors); Forward Township police Chief Mark P. Holtzman, 57, of McKeesport (two felonies, two misdemeanors); Terence P. McNelis, 52, of Baldwin (three felonies, three misdemeanors); and Rodney Elia Iannelli, 53, of Ohio Township (three felonies, two misdemeanors) all are scheduled for non-jury trials on June 4.

Melocchi is scheduled to enter a plea on June 26 before Williams. He is charged with felony counts of corrupt organization, conspiring to use profits of unlawful activities, dealing in proceeds of those activities, and criminal use of a communication facility, as well as 53 misdemeanors.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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