BUSTED: Gambling Ring With Links to Defunct Pittsburgh Mafia Family

Thirteen individuals, including a father and son alleged to be associates of the "defunct" Pittsburgh Cosa Nostra, were arrested last week for participating in an illegal gambling ring.

Rodney (Rusty) Iannelli
Rodney Ianelli.

Robert (Bobby I) Iannelli, 88, of Wexford, and Rodney (Rusty) Iannelli, 58, of Pittsburgh, were charged by a grand jury with running an illegal bookmaking and lottery business that brought in tens of thousands of dollars weekly, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Robert Iannelli has multiple convictions for gambling charges by both state and Federal investigators going back to 1969. His son, Rodney Iannelli, was arrested in 2000 for involvement in a Fayette County sports betting and illegal lottery ring connected to one of Pittsburgh's "last made mobsters," Thomas “Sonny” Ciancutti.

This latest case began when the state attorney general’s office and state police launched a probe in March 2015 that discovered the Iannellis were operating as bookmakers who accepted sports and lottery bets, and also acted as a “lay-off” bank for other bookmakers.

Others charged by the grand jury with participating in the ring include:

James Martorella, 69, Victor Marchitello, 70, Vincent Rapneth, 61, Levi Helsel, 26, Frank Pasquino, 74, Kathryn Venturini, 72, John Harkins, 70, Kathryn Ayers, 43, Harry Stetson, 71, Arden Metcalfe, 62, and Floyd Panella, 67.

According to an April 20 grand jury presentment, investigators received information about the Iannelli enterprise from an informant, identified as R.P., who testified he helped plan parties and family weddings for Robert Iannelli and the latter’s partner in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

R.P. told the grand jury he received monthly cash payments of $5,000 or $6,000 from one of the partners that he used to pay the wedding vendors, for costs totaling $30,000 to $40,000. R.P. said the payments were handled through him in an effort to conceal the partners’ illegal sports bookmaking business as the source of the funds.

R.P. testified he began his own sports bookmaking business in 1993-94 and the Iannellis served as his “bank.” He told the grand jury he received a percentage of wagers he forwarded to the Iannellis.

Expanding into the illegal lottery, or “numbers,” business, in the early 2000s, R.P. said the business grew to between $40,000 and $50,000 per week. He initially received 32 percent of the lottery wagers he brought to the Iannellis but increased his share to 50 percent.

The last Pittsburgh case with organized crime links surfaced in September 2013 in the form of a gambling case in the Mon Valley, a city with a "rich" Mafia tradition located in Washington County, Pennsylvania, that is part of the Pittsburgh, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is located approximately 17 miles south of the city proper.

Some members of the busted million-dollar gambling ring had direct links to Pittsburgh's former La Cosa Nostra, a Tribune-Review investigation found.

Authorities charged 16 people in that case, also a state case. It targeted a businessman who had bought into the game through a deceased associate of the LaRocca-Genovese organization. Also arrested were the sons of two former mob associates and a key lieutenant, according to court records and reports of the former Pennsylvania Crime Commission.

“The sons obviously didn't fall too far from the tree,” Roger Greenbank, a retired FBI special agent who helped dismantle the Pittsburgh Mafia, said then.

Authorities broke the Pittsburgh Mafia with federal convictions in the 1980s and 1990s, including cases against underboss Charles (Chucky) Porter and his top lieutenant, Louis Raucci Sr.

Deaths and attrition furthered the demise of the crime family.

“There's no real structure anymore. There's no real family,” Greenbank noted. “It's gone in Pittsburgh.”

Former governor and U.S. attorney general Dick Thornburgh said the first successful wiretaps used in Western Pennsylvania took down Robert Iannelli's enormous sports-betting ring in 1970 and led to the first prosecutions under the Organized Crime Control Act the following year.