Cops: 15 arrested in NYC gambling-ring crackdown

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A city police detective assigned to Brooklyn's Criminal Justice Bureau, two firefighters and afuneral arranger nicknamed "The Undertaker" were involved in anillegal gambling ring that ran high-stakes poker games, federalauthorities said Thursday. The four men were among 15 people arrested early Thursday oncharges of conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business andillegal gambling. All the defendants - including New York Police DepartmentDetective Richard Palase, firefighters Michael Bergen and GeraldParsons and funeral planner Joseph Fumando, a retired policesergeant and Bergen's retired firefighter father - pleaded notguilty in federal court in Brooklyn. A federal magistrate releasedeach on $75,000 bond. Outside court, a lawyer for the detective said his 46-year-oldclient had an unblemished record in his 15 years on the force. "He's never been in trouble before," said the lawyer, PeterBrill. Other defense attorneys expressed surprise at the scale of theinvestigation in a case with no allegations of violence or ties toorganized crime. "I don't understand the expenditure of resources just for acard game," said Joseph Sorrentino, a lawyer for one of theaccused. The probe was launched last year by the NYPD's Internal AffairsBureau. Indictments say investigators learned the defendants rangames that rotated between four locations on Staten Island, and onsome nights took in more than $2,000. Evidence includes intercepted text messages and phone calls ofPalase and other defendants, the court papers said. Some of thedefendants acted as card dealers while others recruited players,the papers said. Unlike the other defendants who left the courthouse out thefront door to face news photographers, Palase never appeared,sparking speculation that he was allowed to duck out a restrictedback exit. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne later said the detective "was givenno special consideration" during the arrest process. AP wire services contributed to this report

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