Ex-Melrose Park cop pleads guilty in gambling case
John Amabile, 33, was charged earlier this month as part of the investigation that also led to charges and prison time for Gregory Paloian of Elmwood Park.
A former Melrose Park police officer whose late grandfather was a reputed mob boss and whose brother is a former reality TV star pleaded guilty Thursday to his role in a gambling ring once run by a bookie now facing a prison sentence of more than two years.
A third individual, Ramiro Barajas, was also charged Wednesday as part of the same investigation, court records show.
Paloian admitted in January that he ran the ring from 2015 until 2019 in Chicago, Elmwood Park and Melrose Park. But federal authorities have said they “know now that Paloian was running a bookmaking operation as early as 2012 and continuing until shut down by the FBI.”
They also said the ring involved 60 gamblers, and that “a veteran police officer from a local police department” was among Paloian’s “most prolific agents.”
That turned out to be Amabile, who admitted Thursday to violating federal and state gaming statutes.
“Defendant recruited, managed, and supervised gamblers, and supplied them with log-ins and passwords which he acquired from Paloian so they could place wagers upon professional and collegiate sporting events” through a website, according to a plea agreement reached by federal prosecutors and Amabile, and accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Martha Pacold on Thursday.
The illegal gambling operation “accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in wagers, and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in winnings and losses for the gamblers, the agents and the bookmaker . . . and generated at least $100,000 in gambling proceeds for the defendant,” the agreement stated.
“On a regular basis, defendant met with his gamblers to settle-up, i.e., to pay out winnings and collect losses from them,” the document said. “Defendant shared winnings and losses with Paloian on a 50% basis and routinely spoke with Paloian by phone or text.”
Notably, Amabile’s plea agreement alleges that Paloian maintained the gambling website Unclemicksports.com, drawing the most direct connection yet between the Paloian gambling ring and the one once run by Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice.
DelGiudice paid more than $10,000 a month for use of that same website, according to an indictment filed early last year. That indictment also named Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher as a defendant, though Urlacher was pardoned in January by then-President Donald Trump.
DelGiudice also pleaded guilty in February to running the sports gambling ring.
Although Amabile could face up to five years in prison and a substantial fine, the plea deal mentions six to 12 months as a possible range. The judge is expected to rule in August on Amabile’s sentence.
Amabile, who declined to comment after Thursday’s hearing, also has agreed to forfeit $100,000 which “constitutes proceeds of gambling activity,” court records show.
He resigned from the west suburban police department as the investigation came to light.
Amabile’s father Joseph is a former Melrose Park police lieutenant. Amabile’s uncle James is a former Melrose Park fire lieutenant who was convicted in a mob-related extortion case in 2015, sentenced to six months in prison and released from custody in 2016, according to interviews and records.
Amabile’s brother Joe became a minor celebrity after appearing on “The Bachelorette” and, subsequently, other reality shows.
Amabile’s late grandfather, also named Joseph, was a reputed “crime kingpin in the western suburbs,” and an acolyte of high-ranking hoodlum Sam Battaglia, before his death in 1976, according to interviews and published accounts. The grandfather was convicted of extortion in 1967 and sent to prison, according to his Chicago Sun-Times obituary.
Over the years, members of the family have donated to political campaigns benefitting Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico — who has presided after a number of scandals and embarrassments within his police department during his many years in office.
In 2017, former Melrose Park police Detective Greg Salvi was sent to prison for a drug-dealing scheme that included stealing narcotics from his department’s evidence room.
In 2013, a motorcycle club started by Melrose Park cops disbanded after a reporter discovered members were wearing patches pledging support for the Outlaws, a notorious biker gang that’s been described as a criminal enterprise by federal authorities.
In 2009, former Melrose Park Police Chief Vito Scavo was convicted in a racketeering and extortion scheme and sent to prison.
Paloian was previously sentenced in 2002 to 41 months in prison for running a mob-connected bookmaking operation. Federal prosecutors also recently revealed that his name was on the prison contact list for imprisoned Cicero mob boss Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno, who had been arguing for compassionate release. A judge denied Sarno’s request earlier this month.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu wrote in a court filing that “Paloian has regularly sent money to Sarno’s prison account since he was imprisoned; these are no doubt the proceeds of his illegal gambling business.”