Hearing set in Steubenville gambling investigation

STEUBENVILLE – A hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday before Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. concerning the freezing of bank accounts and preventing the transfer of property in connection with a gambling investigation.

More than $1.5 million was seized May 16 during a series of raids by local and state law enforcement officials in Steubenville, Wintersville and Bloomingdale in connection with a gambling investigation.

The search warrants were served at 61 Laurel Hill Drive, 220 S. Fourth St., 4240 Sunset Blvd., 391 Terri Ave., 118 S. Ninth St., and 213 South Fourth St. all in Steubenville.

Search warrants were also served at 2320 county Road 25, Bloomingdale, and 112 Grandview Drive, Wintersville.

James Ciotti, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent supervisor with the bureau, said he couldn’t disclose the address where the money was discovered but said a locksmith was employed to remove the cash from a safe there.

He said piles of cash in various denominations, from $2 bills to $100s, were obtained from the safe.

Ciotti said the home that was one of eight places searched by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in connection with an investigation into illegal gambling.

The state attorney general’s office filed a common pleas court action to have three bank accounts at Huntington Bank and one bank account at First National Bank of Pennsylvania frozen during the investigation. The hearing also will determine whether the county recorder’s office can stop the transfer of property at 118 S. Ninth St., owned by Olga Pasquarella, according to court documents.

BCI obtained search warrants for the properties as part of the gambling investigation. A judge will sign the search warrant based upon an affidavit from a law enforcement officer, which states the reasons for obtaining the search warrant.

Items taken during a search warrant are listed on an inventory and filed with the affidavit in the clerk of court’s office. The inventory and affidavit used to obtain the search warrant are then available for public inspection.

But Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Judge David Henderson signed an order Thursday sealing the search warrant affidavit and inventories.

“The court finds the information contained in the affidavits and the evidentiary information contained in the search warrant returns is of such nature that disclosure may reveal facts that would compromise the ongoing investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation,” Henderson’s order stated.

The order also states a person can petition the court and demonstrate in the interest of justice that the affidavits for the search warrants and search warrant return with the inventory of property seized be unsealed.

(Law can be contacted at mlaw@heraldstaronline.com.)