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State Police Bust Gambling Ring
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SCITUATE, R.I. (AP) -- Fifteen people were arrested on charges including racketeering and gambling in an alleged sports betting operation that authorities said Tuesday reached the highest levels of organized crime in Rhode Island.
   Among those arrested in raids throughout the state Monday was Joseph Achille, 69, who authorities said managed the operation and is a "capo," or leader, of the Patriarca crime family. The group took more than $500,000 in illegal bets during the three months leading up to the Super Bowl, mostly on college and pro football games, according to police and the attorney general's office. Police said Achille, of Providence, supervised the operation, which ran out of the bar JJ Coliseum in Johnston. Donald Capasso, 47, of Johnston, who owns the building where JJ Coliseum is located, allegedly ran the operation.
   State police Maj. Steven O'Donnell said the betting ring preyed on ordinary citizens and used fear and violence to collect its debts. He said one gambler took out a second mortgage on his home to pay off an $80,000 debt. "This is sanctioned, organized crime and these people play for keeps," he said. The state police, the FBI and Providence police conducted the six-month investigation and raided nine locations Monday.
Authorities said they waited until the day after the Super Bowl to conduct the raid, knowing that proceeds from the bets would be coming in, and the operation would go into a lull now that the football season had ended. The raid netted more than $144,000 in cash, three cars, firearms, bookmaking ledgers, boxes of fireworks and gambling equipment, including a video slot machine seized from the basement of Achille's home, police said.
The head of the state police, Col. Steven Pare, said the sting had made "a dent" in the Patriarca family, but stressed the clan remained active.
   Those charged with organized criminal gambling, conspiracy to commit organized criminal gambling and bookmaking were: Achille; Capasso; Robert Cucinotta, 37, of Johnston; Steven Verdecchia, 49, of Cranston; Frank Pirri, 47, of Johnston; Walter Wierzbicki, 51, of North Providence; James Cotoia, 29, of Johnston; Jamie Scheer, 33, of Cranston; John Macarthur, 60, of Johnston; Robert Graziano, 46, of Providence; Michael Russo, 39, of Johnston; Robert Passeratta, 39, of Johnston; and Michael Mastrati, 66, of Cranston. In addition to those charges, Cotoia and Verdecchia face drug charges.
   David Achille, 37, of Providence, was charged with conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon. Sandra Verdecchia, 51, of Cranston, was charged with conspiracy to commit organized criminal gambling. Joseph Achille and Capasso posted bail Monday night of $25,000 and $15,00 respectively. Arraignments for all of those charged were scheduled for April 18, state police said.

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