Attorney General Shapiro Charges Family Running Illegal Video Poker Operation in Southwest PA
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the shut-down of an illegal video gambling operation in bars and clubs in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties. The defendants tried to obstruct authorities from uncovering their role in the gambling operation in order to invest in a legitimate racetrack and casino project in Lawrence County.
Robert Biros, 83, of Biros Hill Lane, White Oak; John Biros, 56, of Lincoln Way, McKeesport; Andrew Biros, 52, of Austin Street, Greensburg; Christine Biros, 55, of Jacks Run Road, White Oak; and Alfred McCauley, Jr., 63, of Carnival Drive, Pittsburgh; were charged with corrupt organizations, dealing in proceeds, conspiracy and gambling devices. Investigators believe the illegal gambling operation, run by the Biros family, began in the early 1980s.
“Today we’ve ended an illegal video gambling operation run by one family for over three decades,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “These defendants raked in millions of dollars in illegal profits, draining money from Pennsylvanians – and from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These video poker machines – with the lure of the cash payout – are illegal gambling devices. Working with our partners in the Pennsylvania State Police, we’ve shut it down.”
The investigation began in 2011 when Pennsylvania State Police and Liquor Control Enforcement officers conducted an inspection of an establishment in Allegheny County and seized eight illegal video gambling machines belonging to the Biros family.
Following several more seizures, surveillance of the family and continued investigation, officers and agents executed a search warrant in May 2015 on the Biros residence in White Oak and 18 bars and clubs in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties. Agents seized more than $140,000 in cash from the residence and approximately 100 illegal video gambling machines from various bars and clubs.
As part of the Biros’ video poker operation, bars and clubs made cash payouts to players who “won” credits on their machines. The cash payout, coupled with the poker machines being games of chance, made the operation illegal under Pennsylvania law.
On the day that law enforcement executed the search warrants, John Biros went to various establishments not yet served with warrants and removed the machines’ internal circuit boards, attempting to hinder law enforcement’s efforts. Other establishments were tipped off about the law enforcement action by McCauley and advised to remove the machines from the property or keep their bars closed for the day.
The owners of the bars that were raided by law enforcement were approached by Biros family members, who advised bar owners to claim investigators were intimidating, and to lie to investigators and the Grand Jury about Christine Biros’ involvement in the illegal gambling enterprise.
The family was trying to shield Christine Biros from the illegal operation because she was the public face of their attempted investment in the Lawrence County racetrack and casino project, which was later rejected by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Some defendants face additional charges of tampering with evidence, obstruction and perjury for these crimes.
“Thanks to strong law enforcement collaboration with the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the effective use of a Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, this illegal gambling enterprise is over,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We’ll hold these defendants accountable – and seek restitution as well.”
The Biroses were taken into custody this morning and arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Wayne Gongaware. They were released on their own recognizance pending a preliminary hearing on August 28th. Authorities were still seeking McCauley. The case will be prosecuted by Chief Deputy Attorney General Mark Serge and Senior Deputy Attorney General Katherine A. Wymard.
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