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
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
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