A Beaver County judge today sentenced a county man to five years’ probation for operating illegal gambling devices, and denied his attempt to keep secret the nearly $3 million he’s forfeiting in the case.
Judge Kim Tesla refused a defense motion to seal Robert Michael McDanel’s forfeiture, saying there needs to be transparency in criminal plea agreements and sentences.
Defense Attorney Laurel Brandstetter Gift said McDanel, 64, of Fernwood Drive, Brighton Township, was concerned for his family’s safety should the amount of money returned to him be disclosed.
With his denial, Tesla revealed the state Attorney General’s Office will keep $2,970,895.40 seized from McDanel, and he will have $990,298.47 returned to him.
Troopers from the state Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, (BLCE), Compliance, Auditing and Gambling Enforcement (CAGE) Unit seized nearly $3.5 million in cash from McDanel’s home on May 23, 2018.
Officers seized an additional $5,062 from McDanel’s 2017 silver Cadillac SRX SUV and $191,143 from his company’s Beaver Falls office/warehouse, and they froze a total of $287,600 in his three accounts at Huntington National Bank.
Their raid on illegal gaming devices in the county, named Pot O’ Gold, primarily targeted McDanel.
Ultimately, officers confiscated 247 devices from 30 bars and clubs. Eighty-six were distributed, controlled and maintained by McDanel’s MAC Vending Co., police said. Officers took another 32 from MAC’s warehouse at 1429 Fifth Ave., Beaver Falls.
A judge with the 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury had issued the search warrants for 30 liquor establishments – 18 contained McDanel’s machines – as well as the four search warrants targeting McDanel’s home, warehouse, vehicle and bank accounts.
This is the same Grand Jury that has been hearing evidence about possible public corruption in Beaver County.
McDanel admitted his guilt to the court. He gave up his right to a trial or pre-sentencing report. He had faced three felony counts related to running a corrupt organization and illegal gambling, and two related misdemeanors.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Katherine Wymard said the state agreed to drop the felony counts and McDanel agreed to plead guilty to the two misdemeanors. The state recommended probation, but left the period of time up to Tesla. The charges each carry a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 fines.
Tesla sentenced McDanel to two concurrent periods of five years’ probation. In addition to the money, McDanel also forfeited 32 of the machines seized by troopers, miscellaneous related items and two computer motherboards.
McDanel had been free on a $2,500 unsecured bond.
Trooper Joseph Krawizcki began his investigation, according to his Grand Jury presentment, when he discovered that from 1995 to 2017, BLCE officers had seized from licensed liquor establishments approximately 96 illegal video gaming devices that were owned and maintained by MAC Vending Co.
There is no record that McDanel was ever charged in those seizures.
But those previous seizures set Krawizcki on McDanel’s trail. Krawizcki told the Grand Jury that McDanel’s machines were simulated slot machines similar in appearance to the legalized slot machines found in the state.
Starting in February 2018, troopers started physical and electronic surveillance of the machines and of McDanel. Officers noted him collecting MAC Vending’s share of the illegal proceeds – which they said was approximately $22,000 a week – and mingling it with cash he took from legitimate machines such as dartboards and pool tables.
Grand Jury testimony alleged he commingled the money in part to disguise the true source of illegal proceeds.
Krawizcki said McDanel generally split the proceeds 50/50 with the bar/club owners. On one occasion, the bar owner got 60 percent of the proceeds.
McDanel, dressed in a blue button-down dress shirt and khakis, appeared alone with his attorney. Attorneys noted he had no prior record and was willing to accept responsibility for his actions. Gift also mentioned his wife and three sons.
In an unrelated case, his son Patrick Joseph McDanel, 33, of Hopewell Township, faces two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, three misdemeanor counts of possessing a controlled substance, misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, and summary counts of disregarding a traffic lane and careless driving.
State police in Monroe County charged the former Beaver Area School District athletic director with transporting 22 pounds of marijuana and more than 160 amphetamine pills on Aug. 11. He waived all charges to court on Oct. 10.
Gift said Robert McDanel “has been nothing but cooperative,” and added that it was a “pleasure and an honor to represent him.
“I wish that more of my clients were like Mr. McDanel,” she said.
“I felt he was remorseful,” Wymard told the judge of her meeting with him.
McDanel told Tesla that he didn’t have much to say. “I would like to apologize to the court and commonwealth for any problems I have caused and I do accept full responsibility for my actions.”