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White Oak man ordered to pay fine in gambling ring case

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 4:26 a.m.

A White Oak restaurateur was fined $300 on Monday but received no probation for his role in the McKeesport gambling ring authorities call “Operation Pork Chop.”

Mark Novakovich, 56, entered a guilty plea to one count of allowing gambling at his Twin Oaks restaurant and became the first defendant not to get probation.

Novakovich was sentenced by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph K. Williams III, who accepted an agreement between Novakovich's attorney Michael C. Pribanic and the state attorney general's office.

Pribanic agreed to withdraw a motion he filed on June 4 to dismiss the misdemeanor charge against his client.

In return, state senior deputy attorney general Michael M. Ahwesh agreed not to seek any period of probation.

Pribanic declined comment about the case. The attorney general's office could not be reached for comment at presstime.

Nine of 16 defendants have been given probation.

Williams previously sentenced Kirk A. Mollica, 47, of Elizabeth Township; Ronald D. Prest, 66, of White Oak; Frank C. Reese, 62, of McKeesport; Robert H. Bogesdorfer, 68, of Irwin; and Catherine Gouker, 56, of Belle Vernon to five years probation.

In addition, each were ordered to pay $4,391 in costs and fees.

Before Judge Donald E. Machen, Terrence P. McNelis, 53, of Baldwin was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution; Rodney Elia Iannelli, 54, of Ohio Township was sentenced to one year of probation but ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution; and Eugene “Red” Kowalski Jr., 66, of North Huntingdon Township and Jeffrey F. Risha, 59, of Belle Vernon each was sentenced to one year of probation and assessed $1,271 in fees and costs.

Before Judge Donna Jo McDaniel Timothy J. Minkus, 32, of West Mifflin was sentenced to two years probation and assessed $2,051 in fees and costs.

Five “Pork Chop” defendants still are scheduled to appear before Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judges, including one whose day before Williams was pushed back until Tuesday.

Councilman Daniel K. Carr, 55, of McKeesport is charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors. Williams is the judge in his case as well as that of alleged “Pork Chop” mastermind Ronald “Porky” Melocchi, 55, of Belle Vernon.

Melocchi's plea hearing was continued until Sept. 29.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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