One of 3 arrested is described as personal bookie of reputed mobster.

BALTO.-N.Y. BET RING CRACKED

November 07, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Federal prosecutors in Baltimore and New York say they have cracked a multimillion-dollar interstate gambling conspiracy with the arrest of a man they described as the personal bookmaker of reputed mob boss John Gotti.

Dominic Curra, 47, of Lawrence, N.Y., was freed on $250,000 bail yesterday on the condition that he will come to Baltimore later this month for an arraignment on federal conspiracy and gambling charges.

Curra also had to promise to avoid such underworld haunts as the Ravenite social club in New York's Little Italy, which prosecutors said is Gotti's criminal headquarters.

An indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday charged Curra; Victor A. Mendez Jr., 41, of Whitestone, N.Y.; and Anthony M. "Porky" Porcelli, 62, who is in federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., with conspiracy and five counts each of interstate transmission of wagering information.

Curra and Mendez were arrested in a federal sweep that also involvedfour narcotics indictments in New York. They and Porcelli are to be arraigned here Nov. 22.

Sources said the Baltimore indictment, returned Oct. 30, was the product of an 18-month FBI sting operation that included $3.3 million in bets laid off by a "cooperating witness" who ran a local gambling operation.

During the probe, Curra allegedly took $3.3 million in bets from the Baltimore cooperator, the indictment said.

The cooperator had connected with Curra through Porcelli, who the cooperator had met in prison in Lewisburg.

Porcelli's trusting relationship with the cooperator was cemented through several conversations that led to undercover drug purchases, the indictment said.

Sources said undercover FBI agents served as liaisons between the cooperator and Curra, handling the financial transactions and keeping track of the money as the cooperator "laid off" bets on football and other sports.

"Laying off" is when bookies take in more money bet on one team than another and bet the difference with other gamblers to cover potential losses.

The partners in the alleged scheme settled the bets in at least 15 monthly meetings at New York and Baltimore airports, where more than $630,000 changed hands, the Baltimore indictment said.

Prosecutor Laura Ward, in New York, said Curra "is John Gotti's personal bookmaker."

Gotti, reputed to be head of the Gambino crime family, was once known as a heavy gambler who regularly dropped thousands of dollars betting on football games in the 1980s, according to evidence at his last federal trial.

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