Former Melrose Park cop charged as part of gambling investigationon April 13, 2021 at 9:18 pm

Federal prosecutors have charged an ex-Melrose Park police officer for his role in a gambling ring run by a bookie with mob ties who was sentenced last week to more than two years in prison.

John Amabile, 33, is charged with running an illegal sports bookmaking operation. The charge stems from the same investigation that led to last week’s sentencing of Gregory Paloian, of Elmwood Park, a source confirmed.

Reached earlier this year after abruptly resigning from the Melrose Park Police Department amid rumors that he was in trouble with federal investigators, Amabile declined to speak in detail with a reporter.

“I have no comment at all,” he said. Asked whether he had an attorney, he said, “No, not at the moment.”

Amabile also declined to comment after he was charged Tuesday. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors have previously said a “veteran police officer from a local police department” was among the “most prolific agents” of Paloian, who admitted in January he ran the ring from 2015 until 2019 in Chicago, Elmwood Park and Melrose Park.

But the feds say they “know now that Paloian was running a bookmaking operation as early as 2012 and continuing until shut down by the FBI.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Kinney wrote in a recent court filing that the ring involved 60 gamblers.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow last week gave Paloian two-and-a-half years in prison, a sentence Paloian compared to a possible death sentence due to his medical issues.

Amabile’s father Joseph is a former Melrose Park police lieutenant. Amabile’s uncle James is a former Melrose Park fire lieutenant who was convicted in a mob-related extortion case in 2015, sentenced to six months in prison and released from custody in 2016, according to interviews and records.

Amabile’s brother Joe became a minor celebrity after appearing on “The Bachelorette” and, subsequently, other reality shows.

Chicago Sun-Times obituary for Joseph Amabile, published Sept. 17, 1976.
Chicago Sun-Times obituary for Joseph Amabile, published Sept. 17, 1976.
Chicago Sun-Times archive

Amabile’s late grandfather, also named Joseph, was a reputed “crime kingpin in the western suburbs,” and acolyte of high-ranking hoodlum Sam Battaglia, before his death in 1976, according to interviews and published accounts. The grandfather was convicted of extortion in 1967 and sent to prison, according to his Chicago Sun-Times obituary.

Over the years, members of the family have donated to political campaigns benefitting Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico — who has presided after a number of scandals and embarrassments within his police department during his years in office.

“This young kid, I don’t know what he was doing,” Serpico said Tuesday about Amabile. “I can’t control people. . . . Am I responsible for the world? I think the only thing we can be is responsible for ourselves.”

Asked about Amabile, Sam Pitassi, who runs the police department, said: “He doesn’t work here any more . . . I’m not going to get into all the particulars about a guy who left.”

Ronald M. Serpico, Mayor of Melrose Park
Ronald M. Serpico, Mayor of Melrose Park

In 2017, former Melrose Park police Detective Greg Salvi was sent to prison for a drug-dealing scheme that included stealing narcotics from his department’s evidence room.

In 2013, a motorcycle club started by Melrose Park cops disbanded after a reporter discovered members were wearing patches pledging support for the Outlaws, a notorious biker gang that’s been described as a criminal enterprise by federal authorities.

In 2009, former Melrose Park Police Chief Vito Scavo was convicted in a racketeering and extortion scheme and sent to prison.

Paloian also has ties to organized crime, having previously been sentenced in 2002 to 41 months in prison for running a mob-connected bookmaking operation. Last week, federal prosecutors also revealed that his name is on the prison contact list for imprisoned Cicero mob boss Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno, who has been arguing for compassionate release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu wrote in a court filing that “Paloian has regularly sent money to Sarno’s prison account since he was imprisoned; these are no doubt the proceeds of his illegal gambling business.”

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