Key agent pleads guilty to role in gambling ring

Justin Hines has been described by the feds as one of the largest agents for the massive, international gambling ring once run by Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice.

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Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Sun-Times Media

A man described by the feds as one of the largest agents for a massive, international gambling ring pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to his role in the conspiracy.

Justin Hines, 42, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall and faces sentencing Jan. 7. He is the latest person to plead guilty to allegations revolving around the ring run by Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice.

Several of the eight people charged along with Hines and DelGiudice in a February 2020 gambling indictment have already been sentenced. Charges are still pending against two defendants, Keith Benson and Vasilios Prassas.

The defendants charged in that and a handful of related cases have mostly avoided prison time. Just two of the seven sentenced so far, Chicago Police Officer Nicholas Stella and bookie Gregory Paloian, have been given time behind bars. U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow gave Paloian until August 2022 to report to prison for health reasons.

Another defendant, Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher, was pardoned in January by then-President Donald Trump.

DelGiudice pleaded guilty in February but has not been sentenced.

The indictment that charged Hines, DelGiudice and the others alleged that DelGiudice recruited Hines and most of their fellow defendants to work as agents for the gambling ring. DelGiudice ran it through the website unclemicksports.com, paying a company in Costa Rica $10,000 a month for use of the site.

Hines shared winnings and losses with DelGiudice on a 50/50 basis and regularly met with DelGiudice or his runner, Todd Blanken, to discuss the gambling operation and share the winnings, according to Hines’ plea agreement.

Kendall gave Blanken six months of community confinement last June.

Hines admitted in his plea agreement that he told a gambler to pay $26,000 in gambling debts in 2017 and 2018 using cashier’s checks in the name of Corvus Consulting S.A. The gambler then mailed the checks to Hines’ home. In January 2019, Hines also promised to deliver $3,000 meant for DelGiudice to Blanken, and he said he’d give another $600 to $800 to DelGiudice when they met for dinner.

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