A federal judge on Wednesday postponed until February the trial of reputed sports betting boss Joseph “Joe Vito” Mastronardo Jr. and 15 others, because he said investigators waited until “the 11th hour” to turn over some evidence from the long-running probe.
The trial had been slated to begin Sept. 23 in Philadelphia, and U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois was preparing to hear arguments this month on defense motions likely to shape the proceeding. But in a courtroom meeting today with lawyers, DuBois said he learned last week that the prosecutors only recently received 14 cartons of documents from Montgomery County detectives and were scrambling to get the relevant evidence to defense lawyers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bologna apologized for the snafu, which he said stemmed from miscommunication between county detectives and his office. Bologna said the government had already turned over 100,000 pages of evidence to the defendants, and less than 10 percent of the latest batch of documents was new or relevant. But he did not oppose the rescheduling.
Mastronardo’s lawyers have described the 63-year-old as a “gentleman gambler” with no ties to organized crime. His wife, Joanna Mastronardo, is the daughter of Philadelphia’s famed mayor and police chief, Frank Rizzo.
But the 23-count indictment returned last summer portrayed Mastronardo and his brother, John, 57, as bookmaking titans, leaders of a ring that used websites, phone banks and other methods to collect and pay sport wagers across several states and in Costa Rica. Authorities have seized more than $2.7 million in cash from the pair since 2006, including more than $1.1 buried in PVC pipes beneath a garden at Joseph Mastronardo’s home in Meadowbrook, near Huntingdon Valley.
The indictment charged 15 people with the racketeering conspiracy, including the brothers and Mastronardo’s son, Joey. Joanna Mastronardo was also arrested, but accused only of making structured bank deposits of her husband’s gambling proceeds to avoid detection.
DuBois scheduled the trial to begin on Feb. 2 and told lawyers to expect it to last five weeks. But he and the lawyers signaled the parameters could change.
“There is no way we are going to try this case with 16 defendants,” DuBois said, looking out on a courtroom packed with defendants and their counsel. Joe Vito Mastronardo was excused from attending the hearing because he is ill, according to his lawyer John Morris, who didn’t elaborate.
The judge scheduled a Sept. 30 hearing for arguments on motions by defense lawyers, including bids to suppress evidence, much of it collected from wiretaps. DuBois also asked the lawyers to notify him by Dec. 2 if their clients intended to go to trial.