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Gambling ring head gets a year in jail, not probation

Jason Cato
| Friday, April 3, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

The head of a Washington County gambling ring got about half the jail time he could have received but won't spend the time at home he hoped for.

U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone sentenced Edward M. Lazorchak, 62, of Canonsburg to a year and a day in prison and ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine. Lazorchak, who prosecutors said ran a sports betting, illegal numbers and ticket-drawing operation, wanted probation.

Lazorchak pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy, money-laundering and to filing a false income tax return. Sentencing guidelines called for 2 to 2-1/2 years in prison.

"I never harmed anyone, and I never threatened anyone," Lazorchak said. "I never robbed anyone. I've never raped a child, and I've never sold narcotics."

Family and friends submitted 58 letters and three petitions signed by 134 people attesting to Lazorchak's caring and giving nature. They said he pays for bills and funerals when others cannot and volunteers at nursing homes.

"It was illegal, but no one was ever hurt or killed. Nothing bad happened to anybody," said the defendant's daughter, Kelly Lazorchak. "He just wants to be a good man in his life, and he always has been. Please don't let anything bad happen to him. He doesn't deserve this."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles "Todd" Eberle said Lazorchak's profitable operation warranted prison time.

"It's clear Mr. Lazorchak is a kind person. He has the loving support of his family and friends," Eberle said. "(But) this was not a lone, fleeting decision he made one time. This was something that was going on for years on a daily basis."

Prosecutors said profits Lazorchak made from the operation allowed him to pay off $79,000 in credit card bills for himself, his wife and daughter from 2002-05. Charges included trips to the Bahamas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas. He also deposited $61,000 in cash into a bank account from 2003-05, prosecutors said, and paid cash for a number of luxury vehicles, including a Mercedes-Benz, an Acura and a Corvette.

The government stipulated that it lost $80,000 to $200,000 in tax revenue because Lazorchak did not report income derived from his gambling operation from 2002-05. Lazorchak agreed to forfeit $47,000, a 2006 Dodge Ram truck and a Swiss-made platinum and diamond watch.

In July 2006, federal agents seized $385,000 in cash and savings bonds and several luxury vehicles when they raided Lazorchak's home.

Since that time, Lazorchak said he has been a law-abiding citizen riddled with health issues due to stress and anxiety. His wife said he has punished himself for nearly three years.

"They say (gambling) is a victimless crime, but he's a victim of his own actions," Leslie Lazorchak said.

Lazorchak is one of 15 people charged in this case. Allan "Mike" Campbell, who prosecutors say helped run the operation, was charged last week.

While most of the other defendants who played minor roles in the gambling operation received probation, Cercone said such a sentence for Lazorchak was inappropriate.

"That would be taking the position that the courts think crime pays," the judge said.

Earlier in the hearing, Cercone hinted that prison time would be ordered but told Lazorchak that would not be the end of the world.

"You're a good man. The prosecutor said that. It's apparent from all the letters and support," the judge said. "But you didn't play a minor role. You were a leader in this illegal activity. ... I know there was no one killed or raped, no one seriously harmed. But it's illegal. Congress made it illegal."

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