Democratic State House Representative Marc Gergely has pleaded not guilty to charges related to his alleged role in the operation of an illegal gambling enterprise.
The gambling operation is said to have had 335 illegal machines spread out over seventy establishments around Pittsburgh. Some of the charges against Gergely claim that he used his elected official status to assist in the operation of the illegal makeshift Pennsylvania casinos.
After a grand jury reviewed the testimony and evidence for the case, it recommended that the state prosecute Gergely. Evidence suggests that Gergely helped longtime friend Ronald “Porky” Melocchi in the operation of the illegal gambling enterprise.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane made a statement regarding the charges her office has pressed against Gergely on February 1:
“This is an unfortunate case in which the players traded political capital and favors to advance their own agendas and illicit business.
The evidence clearly shows that Mr. Melocchi relied heavily on his relationships — including with Mr. Gergely — to conduct his illegal business.”
Background of Operation Pork Chop
The origins of this case stem from an ongoing criminal investigation called Operation Pork Chop. The investigation began in 2010, but charges weren’t pressed until September 2013. The charges were against Melocchi and fifteen individuals who allegedly helped install and maintain illegal gambling devices in bars and restaurants surrounding Pittsburgh.
After Melocchi was convicted, the Grand Jury continued its review of the evidence. Evidence includes recordings of phone calls and personal conversations between Melocchi and Gergely. These conversations often referenced Melocchi’s campaign contributions to Gergely.
Other incriminating conversations spoke directly of the illegal gambling enterprise.
In the warrant affidavit from the first investigation, wiretaps revealed conversations that tied Gergely to Melocchi’s operation:
“A court-approved wiretap was part of the Melocchi investigation and confirmed he used a phone to run and promote his illegal business interests.
The wiretap also intercepted phone calls that show Gergely allegedly assisted Melocchi’s attempts to place illegal gambling machines in McKeesport-area businesses.”
Future of the ongoing criminal investigation
Attorney General Kane has confirmed that this investigation remains ongoing, and additional charges for Gergely’s case are expected. Mark Serge, Senior Deputy Attorney General is prosecuting Gergley’s case.
Currently, the charges against Gergely include three felonies that include two counts of corrupt organizations, and one count of dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity. Gergley is also facing three misdemeanors.
Gergely is a seven-year veteran of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as well the chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee. In response to the criminal investigation, Gergely has resigned from his chairman position but still maintains his house seat.