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'Pork Chop' defendant pleads guilty, receives 1-year probation in gambling case

| Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 3:46 a.m.
JEFFREY RISHA
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
CSX crews work to repair tracks in McKeesport on Monday after a weekend derailment.

The state's investigation into alleged gambling activity in the McKeesport area produced another guilty plea on Monday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Donald E. Machen accepted the plea from Jeffrey F. Risha, 59, of Belle Vernon on one misdemeanor count of bookmaking and ordered him to serve one year of probation.

According to the grand jury presentment last September, Risha agreed to take sports wagers from an undercover trooper, who visited Risha's home to pay for losing bets and to collect for winning ones.

Machen directed that, if no other crime is committed during the first six months of what will be considered a reporting probation, the second six months will be considered a nonreporting probation.

In addition, Machen gave permission to transfer supervision over that probation to authorities in Westmoreland County.

Risha's case was separated from that of several other defendants in what state officials have called “Operation Pork Chop.”

On April 7, he accepted pleas from Rodney E. Iannelli, 54, of Ohio Township and Terence P. McNelis, 52, of Baldwin.

He sentenced Iannelli to one year of probation and ordered him to pay $15,000 in restitution plus court costs for conspiring to set up a lottery or numbers game.

McNelis was sentenced to two years probation and ordered him to pay $5,000 in restitution for setting up a lottery or numbers game.

Last week Machen continued nonjury trials until Sept. 15 for Forward Township police Chief Mark K. Holtzman, 57, of McKeesport and Municipal Authority board member James A. Cerqua, 58, of Clairton.

Each are charged with a series of felonies and misdemeanors tying them to the ring allegedly led by Rodney “Porky” Melocchi, 56, of Belle Vernon. His is the next scheduled case state prosecutors will take to Common Pleas Court.

Melocchi is slated to enter a plea regarding 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, before Judge Joseph K. Williams III on June 26.

If Risha's probation becomes nonreporting it would be the second time for a Pork Chop defendant. On May 19, Machen ordered a year of nonreporting probation in sentencing Eugene T. “Red” Kowalski, 66, of North Huntingdon Township for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of gambling devices.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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