On September 8, 2017, Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, announced charges against two men who are accused of running an illegal gambling enterprise. In total, it is alleged that the man had 126 illegal video poker machines in 25 bars across the Fayette and Westmoreland counties. Authorities have seized more than $660,000 in cash and other assets from the defendants.
The three-year investigation “Operation Bar Bluff” was a collaborative effort between the Pennsylvania State Police, Attorney General and a statewide grand jury. The operation has led to criminal charges against 54-year-old James Tartal and 50-year-old Edward Deluca both of Scottdale. The men are charged with operating a corrupt organization, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, conspiracy and illegal gambling devices.
The defendants are alleged to have operated an illegal gambling enterprise called Zucco Vending. They supposedly placed poker machines in bars in Westmoreland and Fayette counties. The Pennsylvania recorded poker machines paying out illegal winnings in clubs and bars in Fall of 2014. Those machines were owned by Zucco Vending. During the investigation, undercover agents played at several machines and received illegal payouts.
Two characteristics of Zucco Vending made them illegal under Pennsylvania law. First, the way in which the payouts were dispensed was illegal. The player was required to physically go to the bar owner to receive the cash payout. Simultaneously, the machines were equipped with internal “knock off” devices. After the player earned credits and went to receive their payout, the machines would “knock off” or clear the credits for the next gambler. The knock-off devices were illegal according to Pennsylvania law.
The defendants are accused of removing the illegal proceeds and storing it at local warehouses and a PNC Bank. In August of 2015, State Police seized 126 illegal gambling machines at 25 bars. They also seized $312,000 in cash from a safe in a hidden room in Tartal’s home. $84,000 in cash was obtained from a Scottdale warehouse. $241,422 was found in five bank accounts controlled by Zucco Vending.
Deluca and Tartal have turned themselves in to authorities. The investigation is ongoing and both defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.