A Laguna Niguel man who ran an illegal gambling organization with a now-retired Los Angeles County fire captain was placed today on two years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter stemmed from a plea bargain that Pat Fondarella, 56, struck with federal prosecutors.
"He's totally remorseful and sorry he put everyone through that," defense attorney Dennis Gaughan said after today's hearing.
Fondarella was a "bookie" along with co-defendant Tod Hipsher, 51, of Irvine, who pleaded guilty in January to one count of conducting an illegal gambling business and has a June 2 sentencing date, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Robbins.
Hipsher's plea deal with federal prosecutors includes a recommended sentence of six months in prison, defense attorney Victor Sherman said. The sentencing guidelines call for six months to a year in prison, he said.
Hipsher, a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, retired at the end of last year, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which led the probe along with the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Fondarella, who had no prior criminal record, was involved in the illegal bookmaking business from about 2009 through March of last year, according to his plea agreement. He took hundreds of bets totaling about $400,000 for a Costa Rica-based bookmaker called Tradewinds, court papers show.
Hipsher also sought out gamblers for Tradewinds, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Investigators estimate Hipsher took thousands of bets for several millions of dollars over the years.
From December 2012 to March of last year, Hipsher pulled in about $168,000 through the operation, according to ICE. When investigators executed search warrants last year, they seized more than $200,000 in cash, according to ICE.
--City News Service