Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bust: How I Gambled and Lost a Fortune, Brought Down a Bank--and Lived to Pay for It

A North Shore butcher is having the book thrown at him by the feds—literally.

The book is called "Bust: How I Gambled and Lost a Fortune, Brought Down a Bank--and Lived to Pay for It." It's the autobiography of imprisoned gambling junkie Adam Resnick, who helped destroy a Chicago bank by pilfering more than $10 million to pay his gambling debts.

The butcher is Dominic Poeta, a short fellow with plenty of muscle in his neck and hands, like a fighter or a jockey. He's feeling pressure, and he doesn't like being squeezed like a handful of ground pork spiked with dry fennel, some sausage from a grinder.

"Please help me," he told me, as we stood Poeta's Food Market in Highwood this week. "I just want this to end. I'm not the guy they say I am. I was the go-between. I'm nobody big." But federal authorities hunting the Chicago Outfit by tracing their lifeblood—the illegal sports booking operation—believe he's big enough.

The feds, who took down a chunk of the Chicago Outfit in the Family Secrets trial, aren't finished. Some are loyal Resnick readers, particularly Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Stewart, who took copious notes on "Bust: How I Gambled and Lost a Fortune, Brought Down a Bank--and Lived to Pay for It."

Stewart argues in federal court filings that Poeta is a bookie who accepted $647,211 in checks from Resnick for gambling debts and that Poeta plays a part in Resnick's book under the alias "Luciano 'Lucky' Petrelli."

There are other wacky characters in the book, including a Tavern on Rush fixture named Marty, who augments his income by bringing high rollers to casinos for a percentage, and is described as a "slimmer, younger version of the opera singer Andrea Bocelli."

We called Tavern on Rush boss Marty Gutilla to determine whether he is a Bocelli fan but he didn't return our call.

There's also an unnamed state senator in the book, who drives with Marty and Resnick to the gambling boats, where the state senator talks and talks about sports and politics the Chicago Way. Jeepers. Do any of you know this guy?

What I do know is that last summer, I began writing about a tsunami heading toward Rush Street, and sports booking and high-end nightclubs with "bottle service," where $40 bottles of Scotch retail to the suckers for $500 so they can pour their own. Although the waves haven't hit—and I don't know if they will—you can definitely feel the rain in the wind, with Poeta due in federal court next week as the feds continue their investigation.

"They were genuine Chicago characters, veterans of the gambling scene," Resnick writes. "They had access to the underworld. . . . I felt privy to inside information about the way the city worked."

Resnick also writes extensively about the character the feds insist is the butcher Poeta.

"I was playing with another bookie. Luciano Petrelli, a star high school athlete in his mid-40s, owned a local deli and took bets while he worked" writes Resnick in "Bust" about the beginning of this decade. "When he answered the phone, you could hear him chopping in the background.

"Luciano hooked me up with a gigantic specimen of a human being, whom he introduced as a 'sometime associate of mine.' Timmy was six foot five and 280 pounds of rock."

Resnick describes the interaction between Timmy and a guy named Roberts who owed Resnick some money. When the guy said no, he didn't owe Resnick a thing, Big Timmy advocated on Resnick's behalf.

"Without even a half second of hesitation, Timmy backhanded Roberts across the face," Resnick writes. "Roberts was seeing stars."

Stunned, but certainly not stupid, Roberts quickly paid Resnick $25,000 in cash to avoid the wrath of Timmy.

In a federal deposition taken last August—one that will clearly be referred to in Monday's federal hearing scheduled for the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen—Stewart asked Poeta a series of questions about whether he was the "Luciano Lucky Petrelli" in "Bust."

"I respectfully refuse to answer, based upon my rights under the 5th Amendment," Poeta told the feds time and again. But to me, not under oath, he told a different story. No, he wasn't the bookie called "Lucky" but he was a middleman for Resnick, hanging with Resnick and Gutilla in Las Vegas, a scene described in the book.

"I'm the guy who hooked him up," Poeta told me of Resnick. "I hooked him up with guys in our area. When he got too big for them, I hooked him up with guys in Vegas. I was just a go-between.

"He would take checks to me. And I would cash them. They didn't want checks."

Poeta stood at his butcher counter, a short, tired man in old brown shoes, feeling the federal pinch. If he accepted the checks from Resnick as he says—then the feds know it—and he's got problems.

"I'm no big bookie," he told me. "If I was a bookie, I wouldn't be standing on my feet, cutting meat for 80 hours a week, would I?"

I grew up working in my father's butcher shop on the South Side.

And there's only one way to make sausage. You squeeze.

Thanks to John Kass

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