Ringleader pleads guilty in sports gambling ring allegedly involving now-pardoned Casey Urlacher

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Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read
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An Orland Park man pleaded guilty Tuesday to leading a multimillion-dollar sports betting operation that allegedly included a suspended Chicago cop and the now-pardoned brother of Chicago Bears legend Brian Urlacher.

Vincent Del Giudice, 55, who goes by the nickname “Uncle Mick,” pleaded guilty at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse to gambling conspiracy and money laundering charges, and faces up to about a year and a half in prison under preliminary sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors are also seeking an $8 million judgment against Del Giudice, as well as forfeiture of his Orland Park mansion, a 2017 Lexus and nearly half a million dollars in gold silver bars, gold coins and jewelry found when agents raided his home.

Del Giudice, who chose to appear in person before U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall, spoke only briefly during the 45-minute hearing, saying “Guilty, your honor” when the judge asked him for his plea.

A sentencing date was not immediately set. Del Giudice’s attorney, Carolyn Gurland, said Tuesday she intends to contest the forfeiture amount.

According to prosecutors, Del Giudice paid a Costa Rica-based sportsbook a service fee of $10,000 a week to use its online platform and recruited gamblers to place wagers on his website.

To expand the operation, Del Giudice hired people to act as agents and enlist new gamblers as well as collect on debts, the indictment alleged. Among them was Casey Urlacher, the mayor of the tiny Lake County suburb of Mettawa and brother of the Bears Hall of Fame linebacker, according court records.

Casey Urlacher, 41, was among 140 defendants granted executive clemency by President Donald Trump last month just hours before he left the White House.

Also acting as an agent was Nicholas Stella, 43, an 18-year veteran Chicago police officer, according to the indictment. Stella, who has pleaded not guilty, was ordered jailed last week by Kendall after his girlfriend accused him of trying to kill her during a domestic altercation at a Rosemont hotel.

The indictment alleged Del Giudice kept in regular contact with all the agents and discussed their clients’ losses — which often totaled tens of thousands of dollars — in coded language.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Kinney said in court Tuesday that evidence gathered in the case, including cellphone wiretaps and physical surveillance, showed Del Guidice’s operation had as many as 1,000 gamblers and about 30 agents.

In laying out the facts of the case in court, Kinney for the first time linked Del Giudice’s operation to another gambling enterprise involving Gregory Paloian, an Elmwood Park bookie with long-standing ties to the Chicago mob who has since pleaded guilty to gambling-related charges,

Meanwhile, Del Giudice’s 85-year-old father, Eugene “Geno” Del Giudice, was sentenced last year to probation with three months of home detention for acting as a “runner” for his son’s gambling ring.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ankur Srivastava said during that sentencing hearing that the operation victimized addicted gamblers, many of whom jeopardized their careers, marriages and family life by continuing to place bets.

One victim said he felt threatened by an agent after he fell behind on his debts and wound up embezzling money from his employer to cover his losses, Srivastava said.

“This is not a group of friends gambling together or doing a football pool,” Srivastava said.

Six other “agents” charged in the indictment have pleaded not guilty. They are: Matthew Knight, of Mokena, who is also known as “Sweaters”; Justin Hines, of Algonquin; Keith Benson, of Lombard; Todd Blanken, of Cary; Matthew Namoff, of Midlothian; and Vasilios Prassas, of Chicago.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com