Ex-pull tab operator pleads guilty to gaming offenses

casey.grove@adn.comNovember 9, 2012 

Correction: The caption of a photo originally posted with this story incorrectly identified the man in the photo as Abraham Joseph Spicola. The man in the photo was Joseph Spicola, Abraham’s father. Joseph Spicola had no connection to the criminal case against his son. The Daily News regrets the error.

The owner of a now-defunct Anchorage pull tab parlor, charged in 2011 with stealing tens of thousands of dollars from nonprofits, pleaded guilty Friday to lesser charges.

Abraham Joseph Spicola, the indicted gaming operator and a former state gaming investigator, owned Lucky Times Pull Tabs in Spenard. Spicola, 37, was also behind a half-million-dollar "lottery" that suffered payout delays through 2009 and 2010.

Certain forms of gambling -- pull tabs, raffles, lotteries -- are regulated by the state Department of Revenue and allowed under Alaska law for the benefit of permit-holding charitable organizations. The nonprofit groups sign a contract with a licensed gaming operator, as Spicola was at the time, and, by law, at least 30 percent of the proceeds must go to the nonprofit.

In 2011, a grand jury indicted Spicola for felony theft, fraud and falsifying business records. According to the indictment, Spicola failed to pay at least $25,000 to Alaska Bikers Advocating Training and Education and more than $10,000 to Anchorage Community Theatre, money each organization was owed for pull tabs Lucky Times sold under their charitable gaming permits.

Spicola also allegedly took in $4,400 in unemployment benefits while working full time at his business, the indictment said.

On Friday, Spicola appeared in court wearing a black "Team Lucky Times" T-shirt with the out-of-business parlor's four-leaf clover logo. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of misapplication of property and a misdemeanor count of attempted theft. Under the plea agreement, Spicola was sentenced to serve six months of electronic monitoring, permanently lost his gaming operators license, and was ordered to pay restitution, to be decided at a later court hearing. Prosecutors say he owes more than $49,000.

Spicola told Judge Michael Wolverton, who accepted the plea deal, that the charges were the result of "an abuse of power" by the Department of Revenue. After the hearing, Spicola, once a gaming investigator for the department, explained his comment further, saying the Revenue Department singled him out because he was a former employee.

"Basically, these are my ex-employers, who had grievances against them when I voluntarily resigned my job, and the abuse continued," Spicola said. "There've been many operators that've gone out of business, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars, who've never been prosecuted. I'm the only operator, basically, that they've chosen to pursue because of my ties with the Department of Revenue and the harassment I suffered with them."

Spicola did not elaborate on what harassment he suffered. He said it felt "great" to have the plea hearing finished.

Several representatives from the Revenue Department who were at the hearing declined to comment. State prosecutor Greggory Olson called Spicola's comments "disingenuous."

"My view is his guilty pleas reflect where the emphasis should be placed," Olson said. "I believe that everybody who's investigated is appropriately charged."

 

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.