13 arrested in connection with gambling operation

13 arrested in connection with gambling operation

WOONSOCKET - Gold Loan Advance, a city pawn shop and check-cashing company owned by Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt's brother Dan Baldelli and located at 100 Bernon St., was one of four locations where Rhode Island State Police executed search warrants Tuesday morning in an investigation of an alleged organized criminal gambling operation.

While the mayor's brother is reportedly not facing charges in the case, police seized computers, $100,000 in cash, customers checks and firearms. Baldelli has stated that the guns were legally registered and kept for store security.

Thirteen individuals from northern Rhode Island were also arrested in connection with the case including David P. Ayotte, 53, of 634 Old Smithfield Road, North Smithfield. Ayotte, a 20-year employee of the Woonsocket Parks and Recreation Department, has been described as the leader of the operation and is believed to have conducted his illicit business during the course of his shift. He has been charged with organized criminal gambling, bookmaking and conspiracy with bail set at $5,000.

"Through the course of the investigation, it was determined that Mr. Ayotte had operational control over a lucrative illegal bookmaking and gambling enterprise," stated a release on the matter. "Mr. Ayotte facilitated the exchange of illegal wagers on various sporting events."

Police reportedly used wiretaps as part of the investigation, and 1,700 telephone calls and text messages were intercepted from Dec. 29, 2013 through February 3, 2014, documenting $130,000 of illegal sports wagers.

Others arrested in connection with the case were identified as bookmakers or "bookies," rather than bettors. They are: Cheryl Ayotte of 634 Old Smithfield Road, North Smithfield; Jason Faford, 39, of 80 Capwell Ave., Woonsocket; Gregory Vartanian, 57, of 3935 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland; Michael Massa, 59, of 220 Crossing Drive, Apt. # 301, Cumberland; Wade Briggs, 29, of 39 Monica Drive, Cumberland; Dennis Gentile, 65, of 23 Hemlock Drive, Glocester; and Roger Berube, 60, of 75 Arnold St., Woonsocket. The above defendants were also charged with organized criminal gambling, bookmaking and conspiracy, with bails ranging from $2,500 to $20,000.

Also arrested and charged with organized criminal gambling and conspiracy were Karl Allaire, 50, of 11 Old Pound Hill Road, North Smithfield; and Robert Ledoux, 51, of 4 Colerick St., North Smithfield.

Individuals arrested and charged with "bookmaking" only were Douglas Plante, 45, of 130 Summer St.; Roger Roy, 68, of 291 Bailey St.; and Thomas Ruo, 58 of 191 Carnation St., all of Woonsocket. Plante, Roy and Ruo have all pled "not guilty" in the case.

State police say the investigation is continuing, and more arrests may be forthcoming.