State investigators probing a suspected Mon Valley gambling ring seized large sums of cash from various people, including more than $100,000 from the owner of the modest Glassport Diner, according to documents obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
That amount represents the largest single seizure of money in December, when state troopers and agents with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office executed roughly 70 search warrants connected with "Operation Pork Chop."
Diner owner Catherine Gouker, 55, of Belle Vernon is charged with one misdemeanor count of gambling devices as part of the investigation led by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office of a suspected million-dollar Mon Valley ring that resulted in 16 arrests earlier this month.
An inventory of property confiscated Dec. 11 from Ms. Gouker of Belle Vernon shows that state police found $98,800 in a basement safe along with more than $25,000 in other areas of her home.
A wiretap caught Ms. Gouker talking with accused ringleader Ronald "Porky" Melocchi about splitting the money from the Glassport Diner's five video gambling machines, according to an arrest affidavit.
Mr. Melocchi is charged with 57 gambling-related crimes.
The diner is across the street from the M&M Coffee Shop. Mr. Melocchi's business, Back Alley Vending, operated out of the rear of the building.
Neither Ms. Gouker nor her attorney could be reached for comment.
M&M Coffee Shop yielded suspected gambling paperwork, including "owe sheets," Steelers pool information, more than $8,000 in cash and betting sheets.
Agents also raided Mr. Melocchi's West Newton home. They took $2,303 along with suspected marijuana, tax returns, bank statements and ledgers. Mr. Melocchi's safe deposit box at First Commonwealth Bank contained $45,000 in $100 bills inside a purple bag.
"The commonwealth would have to prove that whatever money they seized from him was illegally gotten," Mr. Melocchi's attorney, Bruce Carsia said. "He has legitimate businesses. ... He makes income in those places."
One such place is the Mama Pepino's pizzeria in West Newton. Cash was also seized from several of Mr. Melocchi's accused associates, including more than $22,000 from Ronald "Eke" Prest's basement recliner in White Oak. Police also took envelopes marked "Porky" from him and a "steno notebook with gambling info."
From Robert "Bo Wagner" Bogesdorfer's Irwin home troopers seized five poker machine keys and $2,001. And the raid on Eugene "Red" Kowalski's car and North Huntingdon home turned up almost $33,000.
Jonathan D. Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.