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Publication date: 11/16/2000
Guilty plea entered in gambling case
Nicholas 'Buddy' Ciotti will be sentenced March 9.

BY KEVIN WACK
Medill News Service

CHICAGO -- Federal prosecutors drew closer to the leader of a west suburban organized crime ring that operated illegal gambling machines in local bars and restaurants for more than 15 years when Nicholas "Buddy" Ciotti pleaded guilty Thursday to gambling and money laundering charges.
Ciotti, 57, of Melrose Park, was president of All Games Amusement, a company that prosecutors allege earned more than $6 million from illegal gambling between 1983 and 1999.
Prosecutors contend that All Games Amusement was part of a ring run by reputed crime boss Anthony Centracchio, and that the ring avoided prosecution for years by bribing local public and law enforcement officials, including Stone Park Mayor Robert Natale.
Centracchio, Natale and other local law enforcement officials have been charged in connection with the illegal gambling operation. Their trial has been postponed, and no new date has been set.
On Tuesday, Rocco "Rocky" Circelli, the ring's money collector during the late 1990s, pleaded guilty to charges of illegal gambling, money laundering and tampering with witnesses.
Starting in the early 1980s, the ring placed video gambling machines called "Cherry Master," "Joker Poker" and "Magical Odds" in dozens of suburban bars and restaurants. Owners of the establishments -- most of them located in Stone Park or Melrose Park -- were responsible for paying winning customers.
The ring took as much as 60 percent of the profits, explaining to the bar and restaurant owners that the money was needed to pay off local officials.
When prosecutors began to close in on the conspiracy in the late 1990s, Ciotti and his employees told the bar and restaurant owners only to pay winning customers they knew well. All Games Amusement began issuing false receipts to the establishments, urging them to underreport their gambling revenues in testimony before a federal grand jury.
Ciotti faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, as well as the possible forfeiture of more than $1.4 million.
Ciotti's attorney, Alex Salerno, will push for a sentence of only four years, but prosecutors said they will argue that due to Ciotti's leadership role in the conspiracy, his sentence should be at least eight years.
Ciotti and Circelli will both be sentenced March 9 before U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman.

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