N.Y. man pleads guilty to gambling conspiracy

May 21, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A man federal authorities describe as the personal bookmaker for reputed mob boss John Gotti pleaded guilty yesterday to running a multimillion-dollar gambling operation.

Dominic J. Curra, 47, of Lawrence, N.Y., entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to one count of conspiracy to transmit sports wagering information in interstate commerce. An associate, Victor A. Mendez, 42, of Whitestone, N.Y., also pleaded guilty to the gambling conspiracy charge.

Both men face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced Aug. 5 before District Judge J. Frederick Motz.

Curra and Mendez remain free on $250,000 bail each on the condition that they stay clear of underworld hangouts, such as the Ravenite Social Club in New York's Little Italy. Prosecutors say the club was headquarters for Gotti, who was convicted April 2 in New York on murder and racketeering charges.

Authorities say Curra and Mendez were part of a gambling organization that took $3.3 million in bets from undercover FBI agents.

"That's a heavy-duty sports 'layoff' gambling operation," said Gregory Welsh, chief of the U.S. attorney's criminal section. He said the men were charged here because they did business with an undercover gambling operation run by federal investigators out of Baltimore.

The gambling probe was launched after an ex-convict who had befriended Curra associate Anthony M. "Porky" Porcelli, 62, began to cooperate with the FBI. The informant and Porcelli had met between 1985 and 1988, when both were inmates at the Lewisberg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, court documents say. Porcelli put the informant in touch with Curra, who had an illegal gambling business in Queens. Later, undercover FBI agents who were introduced to the gamblers as associates of the informant called Curra and his partners, to obtain sports wagering information and to place bets with Curra.

Undercover agents working with the informant placed large sports bets with Curra. These were done through layoff wagers, in which bookies seek to avoid heavy payoffs by rebetting risky games with large bookmaking operations. Agents placed the bets during a 17-month period between May 1990 and October 1990, exchanging more than $630,000 with the gamblers.

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