Washington, DC - Joseph Vito Mastronardo Jr., 63, of Meadowbrook, Pa., pleaded guilty today to conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise (RICO), conducting an illegal gambling business, four counts of conspiring to launder money, eight counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering, transmitting wagering information and aggravated structuring of cash deposits.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania made the announcement.

The guilty plea stems from Mastronardo’s leadership of the Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization, a multi-million dollar sports betting operation with bettors throughout the U.S.   No sentencing date has been scheduled.

Mastronardo is one of 19 defendants charged in the case.  Three defendants were charged by information and 16 defendants were charged by indictment.   In the indictment, 15 of the 16 defendants were charged with conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise and conducting an illegal gambling business.  With today’s guilty plea, 11 of the 16 defendants charged in the indictment have pleaded guilty.

At its peak, the organization had more than 1,000 bettors and was generating millions of dollars a year.   According to the indictment, between Jan. 1, 2005, and Jan. 1, 2011, the organization used websites ( www.betroma.com and www.betrose.com ) and telephone numbers that allowed bettors to place sports bets on football, baseball, basketball, golf, horse racing and other sporting events.  Residents of Costa Rica staffed the websites and answered the telephones.   In 2006 and 2010, law enforcement seized over $2 million of cash that Mastronardo had hidden in and around his home, including in specially built secret compartments and in PVC pipes that were buried in his backyard.

Mastronardo ran the organization by using the Internet, telephone, Skype, e-mail, U.S. mail, and in-person communication.  The Mastronardo Bookmaking Organization laundered the gambling proceeds by using a check cashing agency, two private bank accounts and numerous international bank accounts.   On occasion, Mastronardo also provided instructions so a losing bettor could pay a gambling debt through a charitable donation.

Mastronardo supervised the agents, sub-agents and office employees and oversaw the websites.   He laundered millions of dollars of betting proceeds, collected debts, and instructed others to collect debts.   Other indicted defendants who have pleaded guilty include: Mastronardo’s son, Joseph F. Mastronardo, who worked as an office employee, collected debts and performed other financial duties; Eric Woehlcke, who worked as an office employee, collected debts and served as a sub-agent; Joseph and Anna Rose Vitelli, who owned J & A Check Cashing, which laundered the gambling proceeds; and Patrick Tronoski, Schuyler Twaddle, Michael Loftus, Michael Squillante, David Rounick and Ronald Gendrachi.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Montgomery County Detective Bureau, and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.   It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jason P. Bologna of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Kelly Pearson of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.