Chicago sweepstakes operator's extortion charges dismissed after a mistrial

Quick Intro

In a dramatic turn of events, charges against Chicago sweepstakes operator Gene “Gino” Cassano, 55, and his associate Gioacchino “Jack” Galione, 47, were dropped following a mistrial last month. The duo had been accused of conspiring to extort a debt through violence, with additional charges against Galione for using physical force to collect a debt.

The case centered around the alleged violent coercion of Luigi Mucerino, a drug trafficker, on August 1, 2016, in Galione’s garage. Mucerino, who had reportedly borrowed $10K from Cassano and failed to repay it promptly, was purportedly assaulted as a consequence. Despite evidence suggesting Galione inflicted severe injuries on Mucerino, defense attorneys contended that these actions were not executed under Cassano’s directives or for the purpose of extortion.

Trial Collapse and Mistrial Declaration

The trial’s abrupt end came after FBI Special Agent David Patch unintentionally mentioned his involvement in probing “organized crime matters.” This reference led U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to halt the trial, citing concerns that the statement could unduly influence the jury’s perception of Cassano and Galione, linking them to organized crime. The defense criticized prosecutors for their attempts to cast the case within an organized crime narrative right from the start.

Background of Investigation

The allegations against Cassano and Galione were part of a broader federal inquiry into the activities of the Chicago Outfit’s Elmwood Park and Grand Avenue street crews, with a focus on gambling and prostitution as major sources of income. This investigation included wiretapping efforts targeting organized crime figures since 2016, shedding light on the Outfit’s illegal gambling operations spearheaded by figures like the late Marco “The Mover” D’Amico.

Cassano’s Activities Beyond the Allegations

Despite the allegations, it was revealed that Cassano, previously identified as a bookie, engaged in legitimate business ventures alongside his purported involvement in an offshore online sports betting operation. This aspect of Cassano’s life was highlighted through federal wiretaps and the testimony of several witnesses, albeit reluctantly, during the trial.

Charges Dropped

Federal prosecutors opted to drop the charges without specifying their reasons, although defense attorneys hinted at a potential motion to dismiss the case on double jeopardy grounds if it were to proceed. This development marks a significant conclusion to a case that had drawn attention to the intersection of organized crime and the gambling industry in Chicago.

The dropping of charges against Cassano and Galione closes a chapter in a complex narrative involving allegations of extortion, organized crime, and the legal boundaries of debt collection. As the dust settles, the case leaves behind questions about law enforcement’s approach to organized crime and the future of gambling operations within the city.