A former Melrose Park police officer on Thursday became the latest gambling defendant in Chicago’s federal court to avoid prison time when a judge ordered him to serve six months in home detention.
U.S. District Judge Martha Pacold handed down the sentence to John Amabile after calling corruption among police “incredibly dangerous” but acknowledging Amabile immediately tried to make things right after being caught up in the federal investigation.
The sentence also came after Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Kinney insisted Amabile should go to prison for a year for his role in what Kinney called an “organized-crime, big-time, big-stakes, manipulative gambling operation.”
Before learning his sentence, Amabile admitted he was “100 percent guilty” of working as an agent in a gambling operation. He said he was “bothered” by his portrayal as a predator, though. Rather, he said most gamblers placed bets to “enhance their excitement” while watching a game.
Amabile said he left the Melrose Park police department in November 2020 — months before he was charged. He then got involved in the logistics industry before selling his assets, giving him the money to pay $52,000 of a $100,000 forfeiture in the case. He said he hopes to pay further by selling his house.
“I will never put myself or my family through anything like this ever again,” Amabile said.
Amabile pleaded guilty in April to running an illegal gambling business with Gregory Paloian, a bookie with purported mob ties who admitted running that ring from 2015 until 2019 in Chicago, Elmwood Park and Melrose Park.
U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow gave Paloian a two-and-a-half year prison sentence last April, but she has since agreed to push his surrender date back until August 2022 for health reasons.
Amabile recruited, managed and supervised gamblers, gave them credentials for the gambling website Unclemicksports.com, and met with them regularly to settle up, according to his plea agreement. He shared wins and losses with Paloian on a 50% basis, it said.
The website Unclemicksports.com is also central to a separate gambling indictment filed in February 2020 against 10 individuals, including Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice and Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher. Donald Trump pardoned Urlacher, the brother of Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher, during the final hours of Trump’s presidency last January.
That case also recently led to a 15-month prison sentence for a Chicago police officer, Nicholas Stella. But two other defendants, Eugene DelGiudice and Todd Blanken, avoided prison at sentencing.
Kinney explained in court Thursday the connection between DelGiudice and Paloian, telling the judge that Paloian ran his operation involving about 60 gamblers through DelGiudice, “who had a well-established network all set up.”
In an earlier court memo, Kinney told the judge that Amabile “was a key player and top agent” in Paloian’s organization.
Amabile’s late grandfather was a reputed mob boss and his uncle was convicted in a mob-related extortion case in 2015. Still, defense attorney George Becker complained in a fiery response to Kinney’s memo of the “great lengths” prosecutors made to tie Paloian’s gambling operation to organized crime. He wrote that “the only characteristic John Amabile has with these individuals is that he is of Italian [descent].”
“Having a last name that ends in a vowel does not mean John Amabile was or is associated with the ‘mob,'” Becker wrote. “In this case there is no evidence of John Amabile ever threatening gamblers who lost money, much less hired or used thugs to collect money.”
Becker alleged that “what this case is really about is the government not getting its cut of gambling money.” He listed several legal gambling options that continue to grow, writing that “the government feeds into the frenzy by approving of licensed gambling and taxing winnings.”
He noted that Amabile pleaded guilty, resigned his job as a police officer, started a business with his mother and “worked his butt off every day.”
“This court can say John Amabile was a police officer who disgraced his uniform and disgraced honest policemen everywhere and sentence him to jail,” Becker wrote. “Or the court can say John Amabile is an individual with a gambling disease. He is not a bad person. He needs help.”