WILKES-BARRE — Two alleged conspirators who prosecutors say defrauded an area casino out of over $400,000 pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday to a slew of fraud, theft and money laundering charges.
Former Mohegan Sun Pocono Vice President of Player Development Robert Joseph Pellegrini, 50, of Fairview Township, and gambler Mark Joseph Heltzel, 51, of Dallas, entered their pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito Jr.
Both men were freed on their own recognizance.
The men, who prosecutors claim are “well acquainted” friends, are facing one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 10 counts each of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, prosecutors say.
Wednesday’s arraignment came a day after federal authorities unveiled an 11-page indictment alleging Pellegrini and Heltzel parlayed stolen players’ club card information into bogus credits that netted them $422,147 in winnings in a little under one year.
Pellegrini’s job duties, prosecutors say, required him to reward frequent patrons with perks, including adding drinks, meals and free slot play to their players’ club cards, to which he had “unfettered access,” prosecutors say.
Prosecutors say a third alleged accomplice, cocktail waitress Rochelle Poszeluznyj, took patrons’ card information, including their personal identification numbers, and provided it to Heltzel, her boyfriend, and occasionally to Pellegrini himself. Eventually, prosecutors say, the waitress provided the information to both men via text messages or notes written on paper.
Poszeluznyj was not named in Tuesday’s indictment, but still faces several dozen charges in county court, including 174 felonies. Court records show she waived her right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday and remains free on $100,000 bail.
The men allegedly instructed Poszeluznyj to seek out patrons with upper-level club cards, which allowed more free credits to be added, prosecutors say.
Pellegrini duplicated the cards and loaded them with free credits, then passed them on to Heltzel to gamble with on poker slot machines, which are known to pay out more frequently, prosecutors say. The scheme was allegedly spread across approximately 160 individual players’ club cards between May 2014 and April 2015.
Pellegrini and Heltzel split the winnings, prosecutors allege.
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Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL