Little League Coach Avoids Jail in Illegal Poker Game Case

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Justin Doyle being interviewed
Little League coach Justin Doyle is facing two years of probation after being arrested in 2011 for his part in an illegal poker ring. (Image:

Justin Doyle was one of 15 men arrested in 2011 for taking part in a series of high-stakes illegal poker games in Staten Island, New York.

And while the idea of an illegal, underground poker ring brings images of crooked gamblers and mobsters to mind, the group of defendants consisted of several people with admirable jobs in the community.

Now, three years later, Doyle’s fate has been determined by a New York federal judge.

Little League Gambler

The 39-year-old Little League coach from Graniteville has avoided jail time for his participation in the illegal Staten Island poker ring. Instead, the judge ruled Doyle will face two years of probation.

He pleaded guilty to the illegal gambling business charges in August 2014 before US District Judge Sandra Townes. Eight months of Doyle’s probation includes house arrest but with the provision that he can leave to go to and from work.

Despite his involvement in the poker ring being deemed illegal, it seems the Little League coach’s actions haven’t shocked his community out of supporting him.

Doyle’s father, brother, and several prominent members in the community including the heads of both the Mid-Island Little League and the Richmond County Baseball Club, where Doyle coaches, wrote to the judge supporting him. Doyle’s volunteer efforts during Hurricane Sandy were also mentioned.

Though Doyle’s lawyer Donald D. DuBoulay declined to comment on the ruling, Richmond County Baseball Club president George Quinn spoke on Doyle’s behalf.

“Obviously, we all make mistakes in our lifetime, some bigger than others, but how we respond and recover from those mistakes defines us,” said Quinn. “Justin, I believe, will continue on this path of nurturing our youth, being very successful at it and he will move forward in making an impact on many young men for many years ahead.”

Illegal Poker Ring

The arrest of Doyle and his fellow defendants occurred after the Queen’s District Attorney’s office overheard chatter on a wiretap.

During a probe by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau an undercover NYPD narcotics officer was heard discussing the poker game referred to as “The Press,” referencing the former printing press where the illegal game were held.

The 15 defendants ran games that rotated across four locations where players were invited and recruited through text message. Some nights the games would take in more than $2,000.

All but two of those arrested called Staten Island home and in the three years since, most have taken plea deals.

Doyle is the fourth defendant to receive a sentencing and all have received probation.

New York’s Finest

Eight other defendants have pleaded guilty to the charges and are still awaiting sentencing.

What may come as a surprise to some is that members of the New York City police and fire departments are charged with these crimes.

Firefighter Michael Bergen was involved but had his charges dismissed. NYPD detective Richard Palase and retired NYPD Sgt. Ralph Mastrantonio are the only two defendants who have yet to take a plea deal.

However, they will go on trial at some point in April.

Joseph Fumando, a 42-year-old funeral planner from Staten Island was found to be the ringleader of the gambling ring. In September 2014 a Brooklyn Federal Court found Fumando guilty and he could face up to 16 months in jail.

Fumando was given the nickname “The Undertaker” but his legal team argued he was merely a player rather than the organizer of the games. “The Undertaker” is set to be sentenced in March.

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