Michael Albanese, a former manager at the Palms race and sports book, pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday in a betting scheme authorities say defrauded the resort of more than $800,000.
Albanese, 41, entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He also has agreed to make restitution to the Palms.
U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey is to sentence Albanese, who is free on his own recognizance, on March 24.
“He’s a good guy who got mixed up in some bad stuff,” his attorney Robert Langford said Wednesday.
Two other former sports book employees — administrator Matthew Kidle, 30, and ticket writer Kassie Baker, 30 — pleaded guilty in the scheme earlier this year and are awaiting sentencing. A fourth defendant, longtime bettor Charles Pecchio, 41 is facing a February trial.
A federal grand jury indicted all four defendants in July 2012 in the scheme, which occurred between 2006 and 2007.
The investigation, conducted by federal homeland security and state gaming agents, is an offshoot of an investigation into a massive illegal gambling operation run by two brothers, Jeffrey and Michael Jelinsky. The brothers, who were alleged to have accepted millions of dollars in illegal bets coast to coast, pleaded guilty in that case in 2009 and served federal prison time.
In Albanese’s 18-page plea agreement, he acknowledged engaging with the Jelinsky brothers in the betting scheme, which rigged wagers on horse races to defraud the Palms. Albanese left the Palms in the middle of the scheme, but it continued without him, the agreement said.
Prosecutors who specialize in organized crime have previously alleged that the Jelinsky brothers ran their illegal betting operation out of the Palms and another local casino.
Albanese and the other former Palms employees were accused of using their positions to accept invalid quinella wagers on horse races from the Jelinskys, Pecchio and others. Winning bets were paid out and losing bets were refunded.
The Palms, which since has brought in Cantor Gaming to run its race and sports book, cooperated in the investigation.
In a quinella wager, according to the indictment, the bettor picks the first- and second-place winners without specifying their order. If the two selected horses finish first and second, the bettor wins. Variations of the quinella allow the bettor to pick a combination of three horses to finish first and second.
The odds of winning a quinella bet increase if horses withdraw or are scratched from a race, the indictment said. The Palms had a policy of forbidding such wagers on races with fewer than six horses. Bets placed on races that ended up with fewer than six horses were to be canceled and refunded.
But according to the indictment, the former sports book employees conspired to accept quinella bets in races with fewer than six horses
If the bettors picked a winning combination from a diminished field, the defendants paid the winnings with casino funds, the indictment alleged. If the bettors lost, they would get a refund.
Contact reporter Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135. Followhim on Twitter @JGermanRJ.