Trial in alleged bingo theft is set
February 15. 2013 11:40AM
WILKES-BARRE – A mother and daughter charged with stealing more than $700,000 in bingo proceeds from a Swoyersville fire company were scheduled on Monday to stand trial on related charges in March.
Carol Gamble, 48, of West Pittston, and Catherine Drago, 79, of Forty Fort, were scheduled by Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley to be tried on March 7. Police said they used their positions as officers with the Swoyersville Volunteer Hose Co. No. 1 to pilfer money collected through bingo games the department held during a three-year period.
Attorney William Ruzzo, who represents Gamble, said he expects the March trial to last two days. Drago is represented by attorney Joseph Sklarosky Sr.
Polachek Gartley said the trial will be scheduled for March unless issues arise and the date needs to be moved.
Gamble and Drago are each charged with several counts of theft, criminal conspiracy and other related offenses.
According to court papers, Drago, the fire company’s treasurer, and Gamble, the company’s president, took control in 2001 of collecting and depositing money generated at bingo games held as a fundraiser for the department.
The state Bureau of Charitable Organizations began an investigation in 2005 after Drago submitted incomplete information as part of a routine survey the bureau conducts to determine if a charitable organization must register with the state.
A bureau official became suspicious because the amount of revenue Drago reported the bingo generated was less than the bureau thought it should be.
A detailed audit was then conducted, which determined the hose company generated a total of $1,789,529 from Jan. 1, 2004, to Nov. 14, 2007. Of that amount, $1,054,781 was deposited into the department’s bank account, leaving $734,748 unaccounted for.
Search warrants filed in connection with the case revealed Drago and Gamble issued checks totaling $416,077 to themselves dating from January 2004 to September 2006, according to court papers.
Police did not say how the women allegedly spent the money or how much each is alleged to have taken.
In September 2008, investigators seized a total of nine financial records of the two women. The search warrants sought financial and bank records, while a 10th filed in August permitted authorities to obtain Drago’s gambling wagers at seven Atlantic City, N.J., casinos. Casino courtesy cards were found in Drago’s residence, the search warrant affidavits say.
Drago and Gamble waived their right to an arraignment in March, entering a plea of not guilty.