Jun. 4—SHENANDOAH — Four men, including a Tri-Valley school director, charged with running illegal gambling businesses in the borough appeared for preliminary hearings Thursday in district court.
State police Trooper Thomas Luscan of the Organized Crime Task Force charged Guy Julian, 46, of 365 Grove Drive, Hegins; Ronald A. Muraczewski, 63, of 100 S. Main St., Apt. 4, Shenandoah; Robert Piekarski, 79, of 35 E. Centre St., Shenandoah; and Frederick L. Gradwell, 68, of 120 Schuylkill Ave., Shenandoah.
Luscan said the charges stem from investigations into two separate but affiliated pool selling and bookmaking businesses, one called The Joint, at 16 E. Centre St., and the other Rob's Book, at 35 E. Centre St. The businesses are run out of store fronts without signs.
The trooper said the investigation was prompted by an anonymous tip relating to The Joint operating sports bookmaking and illegal video gambling devices along with the Pennsylvania Lottery daily number. Luscan said the business is owned by Julian with Gradwell serving as the "daily front man."
Luscan said Julian also owns a nearby building that houses Jean's News Stand which operates a legal Pennsylvania Lottery but covers "big bets" for The Joint.
The subsequent investigation included 16 undercover operations at The Joint and 10 at Rob's Book between Jan. 17, 2020, and Jan. 25, 2021, the trooper said.
During each of the undercover operations, police were able to place bets consisting of a combination of the sports book and illegal Pennsylvania lotteries as well as playing illegal gambling devices. During that time, Trooper Joseph Krawizcki obtained payouts from the sports book and video gambling devices and the payouts were made by both Gradwell and Muraczewski.
According to Luscan, on Jan. 27, a search warrant was obtained. When interviewed that day, each of the four men admitted their roles in the illegal operations at both businesses. The charges were filed May 7 with Magisterial District Judge Anthony J. Kilker, Shenandoah.
Julian, a member of the Tri-Valley school board, was charged with one misdemeanor count each of setting up lottery or numbers games, allowing gambling, allowing gambling on premises and allowing premises to be used for pools or bookmaking. Julian waived his right to a hearing on the charge of setting up lottery or numbers games while prosecutors withdrew the remaining three offenses.
Julian said later he hasn't thought about stepping down from the school board.
"You can't drive forward if you're looking in the rear-view mirror," he said later.
The other three men were charged as follows: Muraczewski: gambling devices and custodian of property stalked; Piekarski: allowing gambling, allowing gambling on premises and allowing premises to be used for pools or bookmaking; Gradwell: manufacture of unlawful lottery or numbers tickets, gambling devices and custodial of property stalked.
All waived their rights to a hearing and will now answer to the charges in Schuylkill County Court, where they can plead guilty or enter a not guilty plea and request a trial.