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CHICAGO (AP) — A veteran Chicago police officer was sentenced Thursday to 15 months in prison for his part in an international gambling ring that also involved a small-town mayor.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said the actions of Nicholas Stella, 43, implied he was above the law and rejected his lawyer’s request that his sentence be limited to time served. Kendall noted Stella was accused of throwing away his cellphone before federal agents could seize it and was arrested for physically attacking his girlfriend at a suburban Chicago casino while free on bond earlier this year.
Before his sentencing, Stella, who pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to conduct an illegal gambling business, acknowledged he was “100% guilty,” and compared himself to a drug dealer.
“I did use my own product, and I used it too much,” Stella said, at one point pausing to choke back tears. “Every dollar I took in, I gambled away.”
In asking for a sentence of up to 18 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ankur Srivastava noted the gambling ring was not a victimless crime, contending it preyed upon vulnerable individuals, many of whom were addicted to gambling.
Prosecutors alleged the ring employed “overseas co-conspirators, encrypted communications tools, and engaged in significant money laundering” in an effort to avoid detection.
Stella is the third person to be sentenced for his role in the ring. A fourth person, Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher, brother of former Chicago Bears standout Brian Urlacher, pleaded not guilty to recruiting bettors in exchange for a cut of their losses and was pardoned by President Donald Trump before he left office in January.
Attorney Michael Clancy said his client was on disability leave from the Chicago Police Department during the time he was a bookie. Stella will be fired and likely lose his pension because of the conviction, according to the lawyer.