Thomas Marino, the former U.S. attorney who was listed as a reference on Louis DeNaples' gaming application at a time when Marino's office was investigating DeNaples, has landed a new job -- with DeNaples.
Marino, who resigned as U.S. attorney for Scranton/Harrisburg last fall, is serving as in-house corporate counsel for several DeNaples businesses, including his Keystone Sanitary Landfill near Scranton. But Marino will have ''nothing to do'' with DeNaples' Mount Airy Casino Resort, the businessman's spokesman, Kevin Feeley, said Thursday.
''The casino is only a part of [DeNaples'] holdings,'' Feeley said. ''They've known each other a long time. [DeNaples] respects Marino's values, skill and judgment.''
The Morning Call reported in August 2007 that Marino withdrew from a federal investigation into organized crime in part because DeNaples, who is a focus of the probe, listed Marino as a reference on his gaming application. Marino recused himself from the investigation in late 2006, then resigned as the top federal prosecutor in Pennsylvania's Middle District in October 2007.
Martin Carlson, the acting U.S. attorney who took over for Marino in October, said U.S. attorneys routinely seek the approval of the Justice Department's general counsel before they accept their next job.
''The practice of outgoing U.S. attorneys is to seek and obtain ethics advice designed to ensure they fully comply with government ethics requirements,'' Carlson said.
Marino, of Williamsport, has known DeNaples for at least 15 years, Feeley said.
DeNaples, a Scranton businessman and philanthropist, is perhaps most widely known as owner of the Keystone Landfill in Lackawanna County. In 1978 he pleaded no contest to defrauding the federal government of $525,000 for cleanup work after Hurricane Agnes, a felony.
He is the subject of a Dauphin County grand jury investigation into whether he lied to the state Gaming Control Board about his alleged ties to organized crime to gain a slots license.
The Rev. Joseph Sica, a Roman Catholic priest and confidant of DeNaples, was charged last week with lying to the grand jury about his ties to the late Scranton mob boss Russell Bufalino.
Fran Chardo, Dauphin County's first assistant district attorney, declined to comment on the hiring of Marino. ''Right now he's not pertinent to our case,'' said Chardo, the grand jury prosecutor.
Marino, a former Lycoming County district attorney, was appointed U.S. attorney in 2002 after his nomination by President Bush. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., along with former Sen. Rick Santorum, supported Marino's nomination.
''I am certain that combined with his character, Tom Marino's experience and distinguished service as district attorney for Lycoming County will prove to be a great asset as U.S. attorney,'' Specter wrote.
Other former federal prosecutors also helped DeNaples win a slots license for Mount Airy. They are Peter Vaira, J. Alan Johnson and Sal Cognetti Jr. Johnson and Cognetti are defense witnesses who appeared before the DeNaples grand jury.
Bruce A. Green, a professor of legal ethics at Fordham Law School in New York, said U.S. attorneys have the right to leave government to take jobs in private practice, even if there are possible conflicts.
''You can't have a restriction that says you could never work for people who might once in the past had a run-in with your office. That's too restrictive,'' Green said. '' On the other hand, you want to make sure that government lawyers are not in a position to exploit confidential information they learned in the course of their work.''
But Green said he had a problem with the reference Marino provided for DeNaples' gaming application in 2006.
''Writing a reference for someone while a U.S. attorney and for someone under investigation strikes me as extraordinarily unusual,'' Green said. ''I never heard of somebody doing that, and I can understand people thinking it's not a prudent thing to do.''
Reporter Christina Gostomski contributed to this story.