A former Pennsylvania gaming executive charged with bilking the Mohegan Sun Pocono out of almost half a million dollars has been sentenced to serve 32 months in prison.

Mountain Top, PA resident Robert Pellegrini, 51, plead guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering in December 2016.

On June 16, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced Wilkes-Barre federal court Senior Judge A. Richard Caputo had sentenced Pellegrini to serve 32 months in prison for his role in the money laundering scheme.

Pellegrini was Mohegan Sun Pocono’s vice president for player development.

Duplicate player club cards loaded with free play credits

According to the indictment in the case, Pellegrini conspired with a Mohegan Sun Pocono cocktail waitress and a local gambler to run the scam. Kingston, PA resident and Mohegan Sun Pocono cocktail waitress Rochelle Poszeluznyj, 39, would record the names and player loyalty club personal identification numbers of players while she served them drinks.

Pellegrini would then use the information to create duplicate player club cards and load them up with free play credits. Pellegrini then gave the cards to Dallas, PA gambler Mark Heltzel, 52, for the purpose of gambling. Heltzel played with the free play credits at slots and video poker machines and the group split up the winnings.

A more-than $420,000 scheme against the PA casino

According to the US attorney’s office, the trio ran the scheme from May 2014 until April 2015. The winnings amounted to a grand total of $422,147.55.

Poszeluznyj and Heltzel also plead guilty on similar charges and are still awaiting sentencing. Pellegrini was also sentenced to one year probation following his release from prison. In addition, he was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $420,147 to Mohegan Sun Pocono.

Gambling addiction blamed

In a plea for leniency, Pellegrini told the judge he ran the scheme to support a gambling addiction.

“I’m a flawed man,” he said. “I’ve made mistakes in my life, this being the biggest. I didn’t steal to pay my bills. It was to support my gambling.”

Pellegrini claimed he regularly lost up to $30,000 gambling at casinos on his days off. He also admitted to attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings and told the judge the majority of his fellow casino employees also spend their days off at other casinos.

No red flags raised

Part of Pellegrini’s job was providing free play to high rollers. As a result, the activity under the scheme raised no red flags for his employers. Even after it reached as high as $478,000 in free play credits.

The trio were eventually caught by an Internal Revenue Service investigation that also involved the Pennsylvania State Police.
Mohegan Sun Pocono is a racino on the outskirts of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The property features a harness track, more than 2,300 slots, and live table games including blackjack, roulette and poker.

Mohegan Sun Pocono was actually Pennsylvania’s first slot machine facility.
It opened in November 2006 after the state authorized slot machines at racetracks and other new casino locations across Pennsylvania in 2004.