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Key player in ‘absolutely massive’ Chicago-area gambling ring avoids prison time

A federal investigation led early last year to charges against Todd Blanken, Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher, and eight others. On Monday, a prosecutor even hinted that a well-known sports figure “whose name we all know” participated.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse
Sun-Times Media

The feds say Todd Blanken played a key role in “an absolutely massive, long-term, very profitable” international Chicago-based gambling ring.

Their investigation led early last year to charges against Blanken, Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher, and eight others. On Monday, a prosecutor even hinted that a well-known sports figure “whose name we all know” participated.

But Blanken is now the latest defendant in the case to avoid prison time, as U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall sentenced Blanken on Monday to six months of community confinement, as well as two years of probation.

Though Kendall said the “absolute breadth of this case was remarkable,” she noted that Blanken had moved to Arizona, “made some tough decisions” and has “broken from this community.”

“I think that is admirable,” Kendall said.

The judge told Blanken his sentence means he will be living in a community center, but he will be able to work.

“I fully understand what I did was wrong,” Blanken said before he was sentenced, apologizing to his family and the judge.

Blanken, 44, is the second of 10 people charged in a February 2020 gambling indictment to be sentenced. He’s the first since Donald Trump pardoned Urlacher in the final hours of his presidency last January, sparing the brother of Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher.

Last fall, Kendall also gave three months of home detention to Eugene DelGiudice, an elderly defendant who Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Kinney described Monday as “seriously, seriously ill.”

Blanken pleaded guilty on Feb. 12. Kinney later wrote in a court memo that Blanken “played a critical role in the operation and management” of the gambling ring led by Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice, which involved more than 1,000 gamblers around Illinois and in other states. On Monday, Kinney said the ring’s reach was international.

Vincent DelGiudice is the son of Eugene DelGiudice.

Kinney called it “one of the largest book making operations ever” in Chicago’s federal court district. He has previously tied it to the mob-connected gambling ring once run by bookie Gregory Paloian of Elmwood Park.

The prosecutor wrote that Blanken served “as a trusted runner” for Vincent DelGiudice and two of his most significant agents — Matthew Knight and Justin Hines — and also recruited gamblers for Vincent DelGiudice.

Vincent DelGiudice pleaded guilty in February. Knight pleaded guilty in March, but charges are still pending against Hines.

Kinney said Blanken managed a number of gamblers and shared with Vincent DelGiudice “a generous portion of their losses.” He collected from two of the most significant gamblers who bet with Vincent DelGiudice, collecting regular payments of $1,500 from one gambler who owed about $600,000 to Vincent DelGiudice.

Vincent DelGiudice gave Blanken Christmas bonuses of $7,000 in 2017 and $12,000 in 2018, according to the prosecutor.

Meanwhile, Kinney said Blanken worked in the mandatory arbitration office of the Cook County courts, calling it “blatant hypocrisy” that “an employee of the court system was a key player in this illicit gambling enterprise.”

Blanken’s defense attorneys insisted in their own memo that “there is no evidence that any threats were made by him to collect any gambling losses.” They said Blanken has been working at Costco to support his family.