Domenic Poeta admitted earlier this year that he made over $3.7 million in an illegal sports gambling business between 2012 and 2017.
But he has regularly underreported his income to the IRS for years, according to prosecutors. In 2008, for instance, he purchased a $1.5 million home in Highland Park.
He reported less than $12,000 in income that year to the IRS.
On Monday, US District Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced Poeta to a year in prison. Poeta, 63, also must pay the $1.4 million he owes in taxes.
Poeta, a North Shore butcher, said he would often accept wagers at his shop.
Kennelly said during the hearing, per the Chicago Sun-Times:
“The amount involved here is pretty breathtaking, quite honestly. And it’s quite likely an undercount by a pretty significant amount.”
That’s because prosecutors arrived at the $1.4 million figure by calculating checks deposited into Poeta’s personal bank accounts after 2012. They believe he was taking bets and underreporting income long before that.
“The size of his operation and the amount of cash he obtained was greater than that for which he was charged,” Assistant US Attorney Patrick King wrote.
King also wrote in his memo that Poeta took bets in public, at his butcher shop or at gamblers’ homes or workplaces.
He said that one gambler embezzled money from his family’s restaurant business in order to pay his debts, which ultimately forced the family to close its chain entirely.
As we know, illegal gambling and problem gambling often go hand-in-hand.
Not first run-in with the feds for Poeta
In 2007, the feds accused Poeta of working as a bookie.
This was connected to Adam Resnick’s case. Resnick was a gambling addict who served time for a $10 million check-kiting scheme.
The scheme brought down Universal Federal Savings Bank in 2002.
Resnick eventually wrote a book, titled Bust: How I Gambled and Lost a Fortune, Brought Down a Bank — and Lived to Pay For It, in 2007.
In it, he cites Poeta, saying he was “a star high school athlete in his mid-forties” who “owned a local deli and took bets while he worked.”
In 2018, the IRS subpoenaed Poeta. But that allegedly didn’t deter him from taking bets — he continued to do so but told one gambler that he no longer accepted checks because of the IRS.
Poeta pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return and transmission of illegal wagering information in August. However, Poeta and his lawyers lobbied for probation or home confinement instead of jail.
Defense attorney Thomas Breen said that Poeta is “an absolutely wonderful, wonderful individual,” who regularly helped people in his community.
In speaking to the judge, Poeta said he could best serve his penalty by “staying here and taking care of people that I need to take care of and continue working and pay down this debt.”
Ultimately, the judge concluded otherwise.
This is the latest illegal gambling scheme to go down in Illinois. Earlier this year, an operation involving Casey Urlacher made headlines.
That’s still playing out in court, though one man has already been sentenced.
Why the regulated market is better
Legal sportsbooks promote responsible gaming, and there are local services in place to help those who struggle with problem gambling.
In this case, a gambler would also regularly leave envelopes of thousands of dollars in cash after years of “constantly losing” with Poeta’s doorman. It’s tough to imagine Poeta discouraging such behavior, to say the least.
There’s also nothing stopping a bookie from withholding winnings from customers, as the operation doesn’t abide by the laws.