Cops, Firefighters Charged in Gambling Ring Bust

By Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz
|  Thursday, Jun 2, 2011  |  Updated 6:21 PM EDT
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Several retired and active police officers leave FBI headquarters in Manhattan after being arrested in a federal raid on a New York City gambling ring.

Several retired and active police officers leave FBI headquarters in Manhattan after being arrested in a federal raid on a New York City gambling ring.

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Several retired and active New York City police officers and firefighters have been arrested in a federal raid on a gambling ring that ran illegal card games on Staten Island.

An NYPD detective and a retired police officer, along with three firefighters, one who is retired, were charged with counts including federal gambling and conspiracy after an early morning FBI raid on Thursday.

According to the indictments, the police officers and firefighters operated poker games alongside civilians with nicknames like "Bayonne George" and "The Undertaker." Ten other people were arrested in addition to the first responders.

All pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court and were released on $70,000 bond.

Some of the police officers and firefighters dealt cards and ran the games, according to the indictments, and others helped provide security and muscle for the gambling operation, officials familiar with the case told NBC New York.

The detective was identified as Richard Palase, currently assigned to Brooklyn. Also alleged to be involved was a retired NYPD sergeant, Ralph Mastrantonio.

Two of the firefighters arrested are a father and son, Michael Bergen and James Bergen, who is retired. The other firefighter is Gerald Parsons.

Outside court, a lawyer for the detective said his 46-year-old client had an unblemished record in his 15 years on the force.

"He's never been in trouble before," said the lawyer, Peter Brill.

Other defense attorneys expressed surprise at the scale of the investigation in a case with no allegations of violence or ties to organized crime.

"I don't understand the expenditure of resources just for a card game," said Joseph Sorrentino, a lawyer for one of the accused.

The NYPD and FDNY had no immediate comment.

Follow NBC New York on Twitter @NBCNewYork and on Facebook/NBCNewYork. Sign up for breaking news SMS alerts on your phone by texting "NYBREAKING" to 639710.

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