This week New Jersey state and county law enforcement agencies announced the arrest of 42 local residents who were found to be illegally promoting gambling. The gambling bust, which was articulately named “Operation Off the Hook”, ended up being a seven month investigation that resulted in the seizure of $5 million along with five pounds of marijuana and five vehicles.

According to police, the gambling ring was being controlled by known associates of a New York based Genovese crime syndicate. Local media such as and also indicated that the recent bust was related to a New York mafia family.

Among the arrested were John Prato (36) a local teacher and Jerry Maietta (37) the popular North Bergen High athletics director and coach, prosecutors said. Both have been charged with promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling. Maietta was also charged with possession of gambling records.

James J. Skinner (40) and his retired father, James W. Skinner (69), were identified as ringleaders. Others named by the authorities included Brian P. Hynes (39) and Thomas Navatta (41) each charged with promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling. Mary Capabianca (47) was charged with hindering apprehension and marijuana possession.

North Bergen school district aide Ralph Marino (52) was charged with promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling, officials said. Marino, a quadriplegic, is a social worker who was a high school baseball star until he was paralyzed in a baseball accident.

The investigation was initially an effort to uncover illegal gambling in Bergen Country and quickly expanded to money laundering and narcotics distribution, according to authorities.

Mark Iafelice (49), Brian DiGuilmi (48) and the two Skinners were said to have been controlling the entire gambling operation and are all described as being Genovese affiliates.These men face charges of racketeering, promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling.

State Police Superintendant Joseph R. Fuentes said that the organization consisted of a large network of “agents” who were running individual gambling “packages” on behalf of the over-arching association. These so-called co-conspirators were paid on a percentage basis depending on how much profit each individual circuit was producing.

The individual agents would have to meet with individual bettors to pay out winnings or collect losses, investigators said.

The actual bettors were wagering on a myriad of events such as college sports, professional sports and even horse racing. Bets were placed through an offshore “wire room” that was located in the Dominican Republic. Wagers were made through telephone calls and the Internet although authorities declined to mention any specific sites.

Once the investigation got underway, it led police to the discovery of a street-level drug distribution operation in northern New Jersey, police said.

Citizens of New Jersey can now feel safe at home in their beds thanks to local police who spent seven months busting a bunch of grade school teachers who were trying to make extra cash. Surely the streets will also be free of drugs since they captured enough marijuana to keep a typical college dorm stoned for about a week.

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