Convicted bookmaker granted bond

| Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006

A Washington County restaurant owner and convicted bookmaker was granted bond Tuesday, thanks to friends in lofty places.

Michael R. "Mickey" Flynn Jr., 64, owner of the Union Grill in Washington, Pa., was arrested last week on federal weapons charge after agents searched his home and found six firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle still in the box and a shotgun Flynn has owned since childhood.

Flynn, unshaven with his gray hair slightly disheveled, did not speak during a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Francis X. Caiazza, who set bond at $175,000, the value of Flynn's home in Washington.

However, Flynn must remain in jail until a judge holds a hearing Thursday on a request by prosecutors that his parole for the bookmaking conviction be revoked.

Among eight local community leaders and business owners who came to Flynn's aid yesterday were East Washington Borough Mayor Mark Pacilla and Flynn's sister, Washington County Register of Wills Kathleen Reda.

Despite Flynn's convictions for taking illegal bets, Pacilla said he'd be willing to put his reputation on the line for his lifelong friend.

Reda praised her brother's community involvement and said she'd do the same.

"He's a humanitarian," Reda said. "He'd help anybody who came to him with a sad story."

Federal prosecutors, however, argued Flynn is a flight risk, with the money and means to flee the country.

Agents seized more than $500,000 in cash from Flynn's home, restaurant and safety deposit boxes, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway told Caiazza he believes there is more.

If freed, "He'll go for his cash, wherever the rest is hidden, get a fake passport and flee to Costa Rica," Conway said.

Flynn's son lives in the Central American nation where he is involved with an Internet casino, state police investigator Anthony Cornetta testified yesterday.

Flynn was arrested during a state and federal investigation of an illegal gambling ring in Western Pennsylvania, focusing mainly on John "Duffy" Conley, 42, of the South Side.

Authorities say they wiretapped cell phones belonging to Conley, recording $3 million in illegal wagers made in November and December. Some of those transactions involved Flynn, Cornetta said.

Conley was released from prison in January 2004 after being convicted in the mid-1990s of running a $15 million video poker empire. He was placed back in federal custody last Wednesday for violating the conditions of his parole.

Flynn, son of late county Commissioner Michael Flynn, spent four years in the Navy before returning to Washington County and working in a steel mill, his sister said. He bought the Union Grill about 40 years ago.

He was convicted in state court in 2000 on four counts of pool selling and bookmaking and one count of conspiracy.

In 2003, the state Attorney General's office again accused Flynn of working with eight bookies. Flynn pleaded guilty to bookmaking and was sentenced to 5 to 23 months in jail, but was paroled and given 23 months' probation.

The Attorney General's Office has asked that Flynn's parole be revoked. A hearing is scheduled Thursday before Washington County Common Pleas Judge Paul Pozonsky, who has ordered that Flynn remain in custody until then.

Flynn faces up to 10 years in prison on the federal weapons charge, but likely would receive only 18 to 24 months if convicted. Federal weapons charges can be brought against anyone possessing a firearm who has been convicted of a crime that carries a maximum prison sentence of more than a year.

Anne Belcastro, who has lived with Flynn since 1992, said the guns were purchased for protection after a 2000 home burglary and robbery. She said that both she and Flynn were tied up by armed robbers and that Flynn was pistol-whipped.

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