The reputed leaders of a multi-million-dollar illegal sports betting ring that operated from the high-stakes poker lounge in one of Atlantic City's biggest casinos have pleaded guilty to related loansharking and money-laundering charges.
The pleas, from Jack Buscemi Jr., 51, of Mullica Hill, and Andrew Micali, 33, of Ventnor, were announced today after months of intense negotiations between defense attorneys and state prosecutors.
Two others have pleaded to gambling charges, according to the statement released by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.
In all, 22 defendants were charged in the case. The remaining defendants are scheduled to appear at a hearing before Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Michael Donio Thursday.
Buscemi and Micali were charged with directing a betting ring out of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa that took in more than $60 million during a 20-month period. They were arrested in November 2007.
Wiretaps, surveillance video and informant testimony were used by the New Jersey State Police during the investigation dubbed Operation High Roller.
Authorities alleged the gambling ring had ties to reputed South Philadelphia mob figure Anthony Nicodemo, who is among those scheduled to appear at Thursday's hearing.
In announcing the plea agreements, authorities described Buscemi as the boss of the betting ring and said Micali controlled day-to-day operations.
Investigators alleged that Micali ran his business from the luxury casino's poker lounge, where he would sit at a gambling table, often with a laptop computer opened in front of him. Video surveillance cameras recorded transactions in which, authorities alleged, Micali made payoffs, collected winnings and tallied earnings.
Micali "brazenly set up shop in the Borgata poker room so he could attract high rollers to the gambling ring," Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a statement announcing the plea deals.
The casino had no knowledge of the operation and cooperated fully with the investigation, state authorities have said.
The pleas were entered during a hearing late Monday afternoon before Judge Donio.
Buscemi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Micali pleaded guilty to criminal usury. Both men face potential five-year prison sentences.
A sentencing hearing has been set for Feb. 13.
In addition, Micali will forfeit $125,000 in cash seized during the investigation and Buscemi will pay $50,000 in fines and forfeitures.
During the plea hearings, Buscemi admitted that he possessed money that was the proceeds of illegal gambling, according to authorities. Micali admitted that he bankrolled loans at exorbitant interest rates.
Documents and affidavits that are part of the case indicated that the loans were often made to gamblers who had gone into debt while betting with associates of Buscemi and Micali.
Authorities said that Micali "relied on a network of agents to take in millions of dollars in bets on college and professional football and basketball."
Two co-defendants in the case, Joseph Wishnick and Robert Mackie, also pleaded guilty Monday to promoting gambling. They face possible county jail time of less than a year.
Wishnick, 44, of Brigantine, is a former Borgata poker room supervisor. Authorities allege he ignored the illegal sports betting operation at the poker lounge.
Mackie, 40, of Staten Island, N.Y., was described as an agent for the bookmaking operation.