HARRISBURG - Gaming regulators were not wrong to bar a company providing restaurant services to a casino because of its sole owner's links to an alleged organized crime figure, the Commonwealth Court has concluded.
Sonic Services operated a restaurant called Lombardi's at premises owned by an affiliate of Parx Casino, which operates a race track and casino in Bensalem.
But the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board revoked Sonic Services’ gaming service provider registration after finding that its owner, Michael Giammarino, associated with alleged mob figures, including his stepfather, John Brescio, whom court documents described as a "reputed alleged captain in the Genovese crime family."
Following an appeal by Sonic Services, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court affirmed the board's decision, although it disputed findings by investigators that Giammarino was linked in any meaningful way to two other individuals with alleged ties to organized crime.
Judges Kevin Brobson, Michael Wojcik and Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter found that the longstanding business and personal ties between Giammarino and Brescia, largely centered on their home city of New York, was enough to revoke registration under statutes that bar those connected to mob figures to be involved in any enterprise within the gambling industry.
Giammarino's Sonic Services was approved by the board as registered gaming service provider in 2016. But only months later, the board's Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement (BIE) received a tip that the company owner had ties to organized crime.
Following a year-long investigation, the board's Office of Enforcement Counsel (OEC) filed an enforcement action calling for the registration to be revoked due to associations with Brescio, Joseph DeSimone, known as "Joe Fudge," and John DeLutro, who goes by the street name "Baby John."
Although Giammarino attempted to sever business links and disassociate himself from his stepfather, who has seven criminal convictions from before 1986, after the investigation was launched, the appeals court concluded Brescio’s relationship with Giammarino, on the other hand, "seems to present layers of business and personal connections between the two men."
These connections, the court found, were enough to show that the board did not commit an error of law when it revoked Sonic Services' registration. Further, the board was correct to find that the association "would tarnish the integrity of gaming to the public."
In relation to DeSimone and DeLutro, the panel concluded there was not enough evidence to support the board's conclusions, with the court stating the former had a single meeting with Giammarino and the latter was an acquaintances in New York due to the proximity of their businesses.