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AG charges alleged leader of Western Pennsylvania gambling operation

| Thursday, July 12, 2018, 5:48 p.m.

The alleged leader of a video gambling operation at 33 bars and clubs in Western Pennsylvania faces corruption and illegal gambling charges, the state Attorney General’s office announced Thursday.

Anthony Zenner, 58, of Washington, Pa., was charged with corrupt organizations, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and gambling devices. Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office said Zenner’s Zenner Vending provided at least 142 illegal gambling machines to bars, clubs and restaurants in Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties between 2006 and 2017.

“This defendant raked in millions of dollars in illegal proceeds, draining money from Pennsylvanians — and from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania — over the last decade,” Shapiro said in a statement.

Zenner’s operation generated more than $7 Million in illegal profits, Shapiro’s office said.

Authorities began investigating Zenner in January 2016 following a review of gambling device questionnaires, which are completed by the owners of bars and clubs where illegal machines are discovered and used to determine which vendor provided the machines. Investigators began undercover surveillance on bars and clubs with illegal gambling machines allegedly from Zenner Vending.

Shapiro said bars and clubs with machines from Zenner made cash payouts to players who won credits on the machines. The cash payouts, coupled with the poker machines being games of chance, made the operation illegal under Pennsylvania law, according to Shapiro’s office.

All of Zenner’s machines also had “knock off” devices and an internal accounting feature that kept track of each player’s credits earned and winnings, Shapiro’s office said. Those added devices made the machines illegal gambling devices under state law, the office said.

With assistance of a grand jury that worked with the Attorney General’s office, investigators determined Zenner was splitting the profits of his poker machines with venue owners, usually 50-50. Based on reports evaluated by investigators, they estimate that Zenner’s split of the proceeds was approximately $14,470 per week.

In April, authorities seized 142 video poker machines, along with $83,000 in cash from Zenner’s video poker machine warehouse in Washington County and his car. They also froze over $63,000 in five separate bank accounts controlled by Zenner.

“Thanks to strong law enforcement collaboration with our partners in the Pennsylvania State Police and the effective use of a Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, this illegal gambling enterprise is over,” Shapiro said.

Maj. Scott T. Miller, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, said illegal gambling and the use of illicit gambling machines “negatively impact families and communities in Pennsylvania every day” and “ often has ties to organized crime.”

Zenner was arraigned Thursday before Washington County District Judge Robert Redlinger. Bail was set at $30,000, pending a preliminary hearing on August 29. The case will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Katherine A. Wymard.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at tdavidson@tribweb.com, 724-487-7208 or via Twitter @kingofgonzo.

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