A Baltimore gambling operation run by an odd group of partners -- FBI agents and a former federal convict -- played a key role in the arrests this week of three people, one of them alleged to be the bookmaker of reputed New York Mafia boss John Gotti.
Indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Baltimore Oct. 30 were sealed until the arrests in New York on Wednesday of two of the suspects -- alleged bookmaker Dominic J. Curra, 47, of Lawrence, N.Y., and an employee, Victor A. Mendez Jr., 41, of Whitestone, N.Y.
Those men, along with Anthony M. "Porky" Porcelli, who is imprisoned in Otisville, N.Y., were charged with conspiracy and interstate transmission of sports wagering information.
Porcelli, 62, who is serving a 30-year sentence for his federal conviction in New York on narcotics conspiracy charges, was alleged in the indictment to have befriended a fellow inmate several years ago at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., and discussed organized crime activities including drug dealing and gambling.
Beginning in May 1990, Porcelli and the other inmate -- who became a "cooperating witness" for the federal government -- began discussing a sports gambling business that the witness operated in Baltimore "as a 'front' to conceal his undercover status with federal law enforcement authorities," the indictment said.
Porcelli, in turn, unwittingly arranged for his prison buddy to contact Mr. Curra, who authorities allege was operating an illegal gambling business in Queens, N.Y., to "lay off" large sports wagers -- covering large amounts wagered on one team with his own bets through another gambling operation.
But many of the lay-off wagers, through telephone contact with Mr. Curra and associates including Mr. Mendez, were made by undercover FBI agents from Maryland.
The indictment outlines a series of 15 meetings between various parties -- the Baltimore bookie or his FBI partners, and Mr. Curra, Mr. Mendez and a man identified only as "Eddie" -- at Baltimore-Washington, National and John F. Kennedy airports.
A total of $649,460 changed hands during the airport meetings that began Aug. 9, 1990, and ended March 14, 1991 -- with Mr. Curra's operation $43,840 ahead of the federal government's Baltimore bookie joint.
Assistant federal prosecutor Laura Ward in New York described Mr. Curra as the bookmaker for Mr. Gotti, reputed head of the Gambino organized crime family, during a bail hearing in New York. The defendants were freed on $250,000 bail pending their formal arraignment in Baltimore.