Joseph Fumando Guilty of Running an Illegal New York Poker Game

Joseph Fumando of Staten Island, New York was found guilty of running an illegal poker game and is facing a possible custodial prison sentence of between twelve and sixteen months for the illegal gambling offense. According to the Daily News, the 42-year old is also likely to lose his mortician’s license.

The gambling laws in New York state makes it unlawful to profit from poker without having an appropriate gambling license. The law is designed to punish the operators and not the players in such games. As such, the FBI in New York City has been cracking down on illegal poker games that have been running for some time. Famous underground clubs in New York City, the most notable of them being the Mayfair Club, which attracted high profile poker players like Erik Seidel, Howard Lederer and Dan Harrington – were closed down in 2000.

Last year, an illegal poker and sports betting gambling ring that was connected to Russian mob resulted in several high profile poker players being indicted, including Abe Mosseri, Justin “Boosted J” Smith, Bill Edler, Peter Feldman, Molly “Poker Princess” Bloom and others. Bloom received probation and community service for her role in hosting the illegal poker games and has gone on to tell her story in a book which is titled “Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker.”

Fumando was convicted in a Brooklyn Federal Court after the prosecutor’s argued that he was running an illegal poker game at a location on Victory Boulevard, which was called “The Press,” as it was previously being used for a printing business. His defense was he was a player and not an operator but to no avail. As many as thirteen people were found to be guilty of the illegal poker ring.

One of the underground club’s dealers, Deborah Berardi, who cut a deal with the FBI, testified against Fumando and said the club provided food, prizes, and waitresses that give massages to the players. But the more damning evidence against Fumando was her testimony that a rake of 5% which is comparable to the industry standard was taken from each pot. A jury deliberated for 20 minutes before convicting Joseph Fumando, who was known within his inner circle as “The Undertaker,” of running an illegal poker game.

Back in 2011, the NYPD became aware that the building was being used for an illegal poker game after NYPD Detective Richard Palase was heard on a wiretap telling another man about an underground poker club in Staten Island. Following this discovery, an undercover officer infiltrated the club to confirm their suspicions.

In that particular case, Lawrence DiCristina was arrested and charged with conspiracy to operate an illegal poker game. The highly publicized case was transferred to Federal court with the prosecutor’s arguing that he violated the Illegal Gambling Businesses Act, which is the same federal Statute that the online poker sites accepting US players were charged with violating on Black Friday. But the case was set aside because DiCristina proved his point that the game of poker was indeed a game of skill.

According to court papers, investigators learned that the underground poker game was being hosted at four different locations, and on some nights the hosts were collecting more than $2,000 in rake. There are pending charges against NYPD Detective Richard Palase, two firefighters, and a retired police sergeant Ralph Mastrantonio – all of whom were also alleged to have had a part in operating an illegal gambling business.