Resident pleads not guilty to promoting gambling

BY JOYCE BLAY Staff Writer

Staff Writer

JACKSON — John Dellamura, 46, of Jackson, pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting gambling and possession of gambling equipment at a May 12 arraignment in municipal court.

If he is eventually found guilty of the charges, Dellamura could receive a maximum sentence of 364 days in county jail and/or a $10,000 fine.

During his appearance in court, Dellamura told Judge Daniel D. Hyman he was in the process of retaining an attorney. The municipal court has scheduled a pre-trial date of June 2.

The incident leading up to the charges against Dellamura occurred on April 15 when police acted on a tip called in three days earlier and raided a Texas Hold ’em poker fund-raiser at the Jackson Pop Warner youth football league clubhouse off Manhattan Street.

Dellamura was the only person at the event to be charged by police. Officers confiscated $2,400 that had been raised by the card game. Although Pop Warner is registered with the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission, the organization’s officials had not applied to the township for a permit to hold a 50/50 raffle, which is legal if a resolution is passed by the Township Committee.

According to Jackson police Lt. Detective John Siedler, charges were not made during the raid for the consumption or sale of alcohol, even though cups were sold at the event for beer that was available to participants.

Siedler cited police discretion as the reason participants were let off with only a warning. However, the detective told the Tri-Town News last week that while officers were questioning suspects during the raid, Dellamura made statements that led police to charge only him with promoting gambling and possession of gambling equipment.

Pop Warner publicity officer Michael Lopez told the newspaper during an earlier interview that Dellamura had taken a 15 percent cut of the fee charged for admission to the poker tournament.

Dellamura said he had charged a portion of the gate in order to recoup the cost of the gambling chips and cards that were used in the fund-raiser. Police confiscated the chips and the cards.

Lopez said Dellamura approached the organization with the suggestion to have a Texas Hold ’em fund-raiser. That is the same offer Dellamura made to the Holbrook Little League in Jackson, according to David Cittrone, vice president of the organization.

The Jackson Elks Club was also the focus of allegations made by Dellamura to the media.

During two interviews with the Tri-Town News, Dellamura alleged that the Jackson Elks Club had held a Texas Hold ’em fund-raiser the month before the Pop Warner raid in April. He indicated that the event at the Elks Club was held to raise funds to send a baseball team, on which Siedler’s son played, to an American Athletic Union (AAU) competition.

Cittrone confirmed that Siedler’s son also plays baseball with the Holbrook Little League.

Dellamura questioned why Siedler did not remove his son from the league if a poker game used to raise funds for the organization was illegal.

Siedler declined comment on that issue.

However, Michael Swantek, leading knight of the Jackson Elks, called the Tri-Town News on May 13 to respond to Dellamura’s charges.

“Anyone can [say we run a Texas Hold ’em], but the Elks do not mix gambling and alcohol in any way, shape or form,” Swantek said. “If we were to hold bingo, we could not sell alcohol.”

The Elks Lodge has a bar on its premises and is licensed to serve alcohol.

Swantek said there are only two organizations to which the Elks donate funds. The primary charity is Camp Moore in northern New Jersey, where handicapped children can spend their summer vacation, as well as veterans hospitals and homes.

“We have a Hoop Shoot for the youth, which we’re big on, but we have never raised money for any kind of baseball team or held a Texas Hold ’em tournament,” Swantek said. “The Jackson Elks Lodge, or any Elks Lodge, does not raise money by holding any kind of illegal fund-raiser. We hold bake sales or car washes or talent contests. We also have a newsletter that is funded by advertisers. Believe it or not, sometimes we just put out a donation jar in the lodge and people will just give us money by dropping money in there.”

Swantek said that Elks members, some of whom also belong to Pop Warner, must vote to hold any fund-raiser proposed and that the event has to be approved by the lodge’s trustees.

“Every single penny is accounted for because we get audited by the Grand Lodge,” said Swantek. “If Mr. Dellamura can prove we raised funds for [a baseball team], I’d like to see it. Everything [we’ve donated to] is on the books.”

When asked for comment on May 14, Dellamura denied his previous charge. Instead, he maintained that the Elks had not held a Texas Hold ’em tournament fund-raiser, only that the youths had played a game at the Elks Lodge and that alcohol was served to guests.

Two days later, Swantek changed his account of the incident as well.

In an e-mail sent to the Tri-Town News, Swantek wrote that the lodge disputed Dellamura’s claim that the Elks had sponsored the tournament, but not that one had been held there on an unspecified date.

Dellamura claimed the event occurred in March.

“Pop Warner rented our hall for the Texas Hold ’em, but this was a rental only and we did not sponsor it and/or receive any money from it, nor did we donate any funds to the AAU,” Swantek wrote.

Swantek said in an interview on May 13 that he had never heard of the AAU before Dellamura made his charges in the Tri-Town News article.

“For Mr. Dellamura to say he had one there is fine, but it was not a Jackson Elks-sponsored event,” concluded the e-mail from Swantek.

He did not explain in the e-mail why Pop Warner, which sponsors youth football and cheerleading, may have held a Texas Hold ’em fund-raiser at the Elks Lodge if Dellamura was asserting that one had been held there to benefit a baseball team. Swantek also did not indicate whether more than one Texas Hold ’em fund-raiser had been held at the Elks, nor did he explain why Pop Warner chose to hold the April benefit at its own clubhouse, which is on township-owned land, instead of at the Elks.

Swantek did not respond to an e-mail and telephone message requesting further information before the Tri-Town News deadline on Tuesday.