PLAINS TWP. — A Dallas man must pay more than he allegedly stole from the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino to post bail, a district judge ruled Wednesday.
Mark Heltzel, 51, and Rochelle Poszeluznyj, 37, of Kingston, appeared before Magisterial District Judge Joseph D. Spagnuolo Jr. for their preliminary arraignments Wednesday morning.
After reading the charges, Spagnuolo set Heltzel’s bail at $500,000 cash. Heltzel’s attorney Demetrius Fannick argued he had an agreement with the prosecution on $150,000 bail, or 10 percent. Spagnuolo, however, said he set bail at $500,000 due to the severity of the charges and Heltzel’s flight risk.
Heltzel, who initially had a calm demeanor, appeared to be visibly upset after Spagnuolo made the bail determination. He was escorted out of the court in handcuffs and taken into custody.
Fannick said he was “very upset” about the bail set for his client. He explained that he had an agreement with the prosecution earlier that morning for a specific bail amount of $150,000, or 10 percent.
“That was not mentioned to the magistrate when we arrived,” Fannick said. “I think this a notice to be sent to every defense lawyer in Luzerne County as far as dealings with the district attorney’s office and the state police as far as reaching agreements.”
Fannick added that he and Heltzel even went as far as going to a bank to get the $15,000 needed for Heltzel to make bail, something he questioned after his client was taken away in handcuffs.
“This was a setup on bail from the get-go, and I’m very disturbed,” he said. “This is just for show.”
Fannick went on to call the bail “ridiculous” and not reflective of the charges filed.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Marsilio, however, disagreed and called the charges “serious” and “severe.” He added that the issue of bail is left to the discretion of the magisterial district judge.
“The magisterial district judge rejected my recommendation, and therefore, made his own decision,” Marsilio said.
Poszeluznyj’s bail was set at $100,000 unsecured, and while she left with her freedom intact, she did not leave quietly.
Poszeluznyj arrived at Spagnuolo’s office with two other woman and a man. Poszeluznyj and the other women all wore matching coats with their hoods up, and walked in and out of the courtroom with their faces covered.
As the group left after Poszeluznyj’s arraignment and got in their car to leave, one of the women yelled at reporters to “get a real job.” Poszeluznyj declined to comment and kept her face hidden.
According to police, former Vice President of Player Development Robert Pellegrini, 50, of Fairview Township, Poszeluznyj — a beverage server — and gambler Mark Heltzel played $487,100 in slot play. They allegedly cashed out winnings of $418,792 from the fraudulent slot play.
From May 2, 2014 to April 4, 2015, Pellegrini would allegedly receive players’ cards and pin numbers from Poszeluznyj, who allegedly duplicated the card and added fraudulent free play in excess of the owners’ allotted amounts. The duplicated cards were then allegedly given to Heltzel who allegedly downloaded the excess play and cashed out winnings. The trio then allegedly split the winnings.
Police said Heltzel would only play the fraudulent excess amount on the cards, leaving the patrons’ usual slot play amount, so as to not alert the card owner.
The scheme wasn’t Heltzel’s first attempt at defrauding the casino.
In 2011, Heltzel was charged with two misdemeanor counts of theft after a trooper with the state police’s gaming enforcement office witnessed him “cap a bet” during two separate $10 hands of blackjack on June 30, 2011.
According to a criminal complaint, Heltzel used sleight of hand to add additional chips to his wager after being dealt a winning hand, resulting in a total loss of $20 to the casino and $3.20 to the Commonwealth from the two hands witnessed by the state trooper.
When the state trooper confronted Heltzel, he stated “I’m sorry” and admitted to capping his bet twice, the complaint says.
As part of a plea agreement, Heltzel’s theft charges were reduced to two counts of disorderly conduct, a summary offense. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 22, 2012 and was ordered to pay a $600 fine, court records show.
Marsilio on Wednesday called the current theft “a very elaborate scheme,” adding that it was one of the more extreme cases he has experienced. He added that the investigation is ongoing, and said that additional arrests could be made.
Marsilio said that Pellegrini could appear for a preliminary arraignment on Thursday.
Preliminary hearings for Heltzel and Poszeluznyj have been scheduled for Feb. 1 before Spagnuolo.
Reach Travis Kellar at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @TLNews and reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL