Warrant records detail evidence seized in Mon Valley gambling ring case
Dozens of search warrants state prosecutors released on Tuesday detail the piles of cash, pay slips and debtor lists police found that led to charging 16 people in an illegal Mon Valley gambling ring.
Agents with the Attorney General's Office and state police confiscated nearly $110,000 worth of poker machines, cash and checks from businesses, banks and the home of Ronald “Porky” Melocchi, 54, of West Newton, accused of leading the ring, search warrant returns showed.
Other records revealed agents took a significant amount tied to Glassport Diner owner Catherine Gouker, 55, including $98,800 in cash from a safe in her Belle Vernon home and $77,000 in cashiers' checks at a Jefferson Hills bank.
In all, documents showed agents seized at least $200,000 in cash, machines and other assets from Gouker, who could not be reached for comment.
Said Melocchi's attorney, Bruce Carsia: “I haven't even seen those documents yet.”
Melocchi and retired McKeesport police officer Ronald Prest operated Back Alley Vending, prosecutors said. In addition to Prest, authorities last week charged two other former McKeesport police officers in the case.
Previously sealed search warrant records show agents visited the White Oak home of Prest, 65, on Dec. 11 as part of a raid. Authorities seized $22,000 in cash, a .40-caliber handgun, a notebook filled with gambling information and envelopes marked “Porky,” records show.
At Back Alley Vending, investigators recovered “owe” sheets, vendor lists, payoff slips, business records and documents pertaining to MMPP Investments Inc., a company registered in 2002 with the Department of State but listing no officers.
In searching Melocchi's Vernon Drive home, investigators recovered notebooks, ledgers, tax returns, other business documents and suspected marijuana, records show.
State prosecutors charged 16 people with gambling-related offenses in a multi-year investigation targeting Melocchi, a former McKeesport storefront they claim he operated as a gambling den and Back Alley Vending, a Glassport-based business that allegedly supplied illegal gambling machines to 70 locations.
Agents seized more than 350 gambling machines, $1.1 million and uncovered alleged ties to an illegal numbers racket and sports-betting ring.
Melocchi faces 57 charges, including four felonies. His preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 21.
“Maybe part of what was taken was derived from illegal sources and the rest came from a legitimate source,” Carsia said. “I just don't know yet.”
Melocchi owns Mama Pepino pizzerias in West Newton and McKeesport. In addition to gambling machines, court papers showed Melocchi told investigators he supplied equipment such as jukeboxes, pool tables and video games to bars, restaurants and clubs.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Renovation planned for blighted homes in Garfield
- Newsmaker: David A. Harris
- Downtown holiday parade festive, but weather dampens turnout
- In letter, Plum school superintendent reassures parents on safety
- Republican presidential candidate Trump reframes claim that Muslims cheered 9/11
- U.S. must help Syrian refugees but not take them in, Carson says