Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gambino associate gets one year for illegal gambling in North Haven

A prominent North Haven resident, Michael Pepe, 33, was sentenced to one year in prison Friday for his involvement in an illegal gambling ring with links to the Gambino organized crime family.

“I am here today to accept full responsibility for my actions,” Pepe said during sentencing at the Hartford Federal Building Friday.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant sentenced Pepe to 12 months and one day in prison for two counts of operating an illegal gambling operation. Pepe was ordered to forfeit $100,000 — $50,000 within 90 days and $50,000 by the end of his two-year probationary period. Pepe also will amend his tax returns to reflect his earnings during the four to five years he operated the ring.

Prosecutors said Pepe was the “master agent” of a sports bookmaking operation in Greater New Haven, answering to Dean DePreta and Richard Uva, “two longtime Gambino associates based in Stamford who spearheaded the Crime Family’s illegal activities in southern Connecticut.”
The operation used two websites based in Costa Rica that allowed gamblers to place bets on sports events. Prosecutors said Pepe and other bookies would then use the information on the websites to collect debts and hand out winnings in person.

According to court documents, “the FBI’s Cryptanalysis Unit has analyzed betting data from the www.44wager.com website alone and determined the total gross revenues for the DePreta/Uva organization from October 2010 to June 2011 was $1,692,564.”

Pepe’s second charge stemmed from his involvement with an illegal card gambling club called “The Spot,” at 2965 State St. in Hamden. Pepe was indicted along with 19 others for involvement in the DePreta/Uva organization.

“What started out for me as entertainment with friends foolishly and irresponsibly grew into something much bigger than myself,” Pepe said.

Pepe apologized to the government, his friends, his community, the judge, the court and “most especially” to his parents for his actions.

“I feel like a bulldozer,” Pepe said. “I feel like I’ve destroyed everything around me.”
Pepe’s mother, Susan Pepe, was present for her son’s sentencing.

“Michael’s actions are a contradiction to who he is,” she said.

Testimony of those who spoke on Pepe’s behalf attested to Pepe’s high standing in the North Haven community, particularly his community service record.

Pepe has volunteered an estimated 10,000 hours over the past 15 years, working with the North Haven Tomahawk Club, the Max Sinoway Baseball League, the North Haven Youth Basketball League, Youth Soccer Program, and the Hamden-North Haven Challenger Baseball League. He also served on the North Haven Republican Town Committee and on the town’s Community Service Commission.

Bryant said, “I have seen very few individuals whose dedication to their local communities have equaled that of Mr. Pepe’s.”

Bryant said she received more than 40 letters defending Pepe’s character.

“It’s difficult not to be moved,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold H. Chen, “when there is such an outpouring of support.”

But he reminded the court that they were present because of the illegal activities in which Pepe had engaged for years.

Within two days, April 27, when the FBI informed Pepe he was being investigated, Pepe said he resigned from all of his volunteer positions in North Haven.

Of the 20 people indicted for the DePreta/Uva ring, Pepe was the first and, so far, only to enter a plea —guilty to both counts.
Prosecutors sought an 18- to 24-month sentence. Pepe’s lawyer, Joseph W. Martini, argued for parole and house arrest.

“He stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for everything the government charged him with,” Martini said.

While Bryant readily recognized Pepe as a positive contributor to his community, she said, “The individual who appears before me today is that plus some obscure element which has yet to be exposed.”

Prosecutors said they were puzzled how someone with such a robust support structure could become engaged in a gambling operation with ties to organized crime.



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