For years, while dodging and denying whispers of ties to organized crime, Louis DeNaples devoted himself to a business empire that includes real estate, landfills, a bank and the Mount Airy Casino Resort.
But according to a Dauphin County grand jury, DeNaples' ties to the underworld were real, and his denials under oath to the state Gaming Control Board should have prevented him from receiving a slots license.
Under the weight of jarring grand jury testimony from several political and underworld figures -- which tied DeNaples directly to the hierarchy of the Bufalino crime family -- DeNaples was charged Wednesday with four counts of perjury for allegedly lying to the gaming board about his mob ties.
His Mount Airy Casino No. 1, the slots parlor, was also charged.
Gaming board Executive Director Ann Neeb issued an emergency order suspending DeNaples' gaming license pending a full review at the board's Feb. 5 meeting.
The casino remains open and under the control of a three-person auditing committee whose members were appointed by DeNaples last summer. DeNaples is barred from entering or profiting from the casino.
District Attorney Ed Marsico, who announced the charges at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg alongside state police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller, said DeNaples' testimony before the gaming board ''affected the integrity of the entire gaming process.''
DeNaples' attorney, Richard Sprague of Philadelphia, called the charges an ''outrageous attempt on the part of this prosecutor to pursue a political agenda that is aimed at embarrassing the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and Louis DeNaples is an innocent victim who is caught in the middle of that dispute.''
DeNaples has a week to turn himself in.
The perjury counts, all felonies, carry up to 37 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines. The grand jury also recommended that the gaming board revoke DeNaples' license and forfeit his $50 million license fee.
The seven-month grand jury investigation featured testimony from a wide and diverse group of witnesses. They included former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who testified about a meeting he had with DeNaples in Scranton in 1999.
Another witness was James Decker, a former Lackawanna County official who was charged with DeNaples in 1977 with submitting bogus invoices to defraud the federal government of more than $500,000 for Scranton's cleanup after Hurricane Agnes. DeNaples pleaded no contest to one count of conspiracy in 1978.
But the key grand jury testimony centered on DeNaples' relationship with two mobsters, the late northeast Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino and his former driver and successor, William D'Elia, and on two Philadelphia men, Shamsud-din Ali and the late Ron White.
Ali is serving a seven-year federal prison term for using his political connections to obtain dubious loans, donations and city contracts. White was an attorney accused of trying to trade government contracts for political donations.
According to the grand jury report, DeNaples testified under oath before the gaming board in August and September 2006, and both times denied any relationship with Bufalino, D'Elia, Ali or White.
But D'Elia and Ali testified before the grand jury in July 2007 they had close ties to DeNaples.
D'Elia, who is imprisoned and awaiting trial on federal charges of money laundering and conspiring to kill a witness, told the grand jury he had known DeNaples for years as a friend and business associate, and frequently met with DeNaples at his private office at DeNaples Auto Parts in Dunmore, Lackawanna County.
Among their business dealings, D'Elia said, DeNaples allowed him to place public telephones on land controlled by DeNaples or his companies. D'Elia was an independent contractor for the phone company, called BudTel, and arranged for meetings between DeNaples and BudTel's owner, Barry Shapiro.
D'Elia also told the grand jury that when his daughter married in 1999, DeNaples was a guest. Other attendees included ''Skinny'' Joe Merlino, the head of the Bruno crime family and now imprisoned, and the family's acting boss, Joseph ''Uncle Joe'' Ligambi.
After DeNaples' father died, DeNaples gave D'Elia his father's rosary beads. D'Elia had spent time at the hospital with the elder DeNaples.
After D'Elia's arrest in October 2006 for allegedly conspiring to kill a witness, FBI agents seized D'Elia's phone book, which contained DeNaples' unlisted number next to the entry ''DeNaples, Lou.''
D'Elia also testified DeNaples knew Bufalino, who ran the northeast Pennsylvania crime family for four decades until his death in 1994. A U.S. Senate committee once called Bufalino ''one of the most ruthless and powerful leaders of the Mafia in the United States,''
DeNaples told the gaming board he knew Bufalino only by name. But D'Elia said he often saw DeNaples and Bufalino together in the 1970s.
During one meeting at a Scranton club after a prize fight, D'Elia said DeNaples complimented Bufalino on a ring he was wearing, and Bufalino gave it to DeNaples as a gift. DeNaples also supplied Bufalino with car parts and, after a fire at DeNaples' home in the '70s, Bufalino gave DeNaples three suits to wear for meetings, D'Elia said.
D'Elia also testified that another man, Casper Giumento, frequently served as a conduit between Bufalino and DeNaples.
The grand jury heard an FBI wiretap of a phone conversation among DeNaples, Ali and two other men.
DeNaples told the gaming board he didn't know Ali, a Philadelphia imam, but in preparing for his testimony DeNaples told the board it was possible Ali and ''another black person'' came to talk to him about removing sludge from Philadelphia.
When asked to identify Ali in photos, DeNaples told the board he couldn't. ''To me, all black people look alike,'' DeNaples said.
But Ali told the grand jury he met with DeNaples on three or four occasions, and during one of those meetings DeNaples complained he had given $50,000 to White, the Philadelphia businessman, but still had no access to Mayor Street.
On the July 2002 FBI wiretap, which was part of the Ali investigation, DeNaples is heard talking with Ali about a parking spot Ali secured for DeNaples' daughter, who was attending Temple University.
The two men are also heard negotiating a deal to deposit sludge and other waste from Philadelphia in DeNaples-owned landfills in Lackawanna and Schuylkill counties.
Ali complained about getting rid of debris from homes torn down in Philadelphia and that ''nobody's accepting it.''
''We can definitely take it,'' DeNaples said. ''You know, me and you talked about this but it never materialized, remember?''
DeNaples is the second person charged by the grand jury. The Rev. Joseph Sica, a Roman Catholic priest and DeNaples confidant, was charged Jan. 2 with perjury for allegedly lying about his relationship with Bufalino.
Reporter Christina Gostomski contributed to this story.