Friday, May 25, 2007

Former Flyers star Tocchet pleads guilty

By John McMullen
The Phanatic Magazine

Former Flyers star Rick Tocchet pleaded guilty to running a sports gambling ring on Friday.

Tocchet, who is currently on leave from his job as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote gambling and promoting gambling. First time offenders for such offenses rarely do jail time, however.

"Mr. Tocchet found the quick profits of sports bookmaking alluring," said New Jersey attorney general Stuart Rabner. "Of course, they also are illegal. He will now face a sentencing judge for the consequences of his actions."

Tocchet is the third man to plead guilty in the case, which New Jersey authorities named "Operation Slapshot." The others, including state trooperJames Harney, are expected to get jail time.

Tocchet was identified by the New Jersey State Police being the alleged partner and financier of Harney.

According to State Police, the investigation revealed a sports betting system that processed more than 1,000 wagers that exceeded a total of $1.7 million on professional and collegiate sporting events during a 40-day period.

The clientele of the ring included professional athletes, past and present, and celebrities. Janet Jones, the wife of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, was accused of betting but was not charged in the case.

The investigation began in October of 2005 when members of the New Jersey State Police Organized Crime Bureau discovered information that Harney was a partner in the bookmaking ring.

In addition, the investigation also led to the arrest of James Ulmer, who was charged with promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy, and revealed alleged ties to the Bruno-Scarfo crime family.

"Today's guilty plea is a fair and appropriate disposition for the crimes committed by Mr. Tocchet," said criminal justice director Gregory A. Paw. "I want to commend the State Police detectives who built a strong case from this complex and highly organized illegal sports betting ring."

Tocchet, who played for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston,Washington and Phoenix in a lengthy career, scored 440 goals and 952 points in 1,144 regular-season NHL games.

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