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3 admit aiding jailed kingpin of poker video

Friday, October 01, 1999

By Ann Belser, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If federal prosecutors thought they were going to shut down John "Duffy" Conley's video poker operation by putting him in a federal prison for a decade, they were mistaken.

Yesterday, it became clear that they had merely provided Conley with federally funded office space, as three of his associates pleaded guilty to continuing the gambling enterprise, at Conley's direction.

One of those people was his cousin, Kurtis "R.T." Woods, 25, of Oakdale. The others were Richard C. Reed, 31, and Sarah Pollinger, 47, who live together in McKees Rocks.

During their hearings, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Wilson told U.S. District Judge Donald J. Lee about how the three would drive to Loretto, where Conley is in the federal penitentiary, for visits.

While there, Wilson said, they would talk about personal matters such as family and friends. They would also talk about where to place more machines, he said, and how well the illegal gambling business was doing.

Wilson said Conley, 33, of Robinson, also directed his people on running the business in phone calls that were recorded as part of normal prison procedure.

Woods signed a $10 million sales agreement with Conley in January 1996 to buy Three Rivers Coin, the company through which Conley controlled his gambling operation.

Wilson said he then set up his own company, Three Rivers Technology, and used it to obtain the permits for new video poker machines that would be converted to illegal gambling devices.

Woods pleaded guilty yesterday to operating an illegal gambling enterprise, and conspiracy to operate that enterprise and to launder money.

He faces five years in prison and will be sentenced Dec. 10.

Reed and Pollinger pleaded guilty to the same charges.

Reed is already on federal probation. He was sentenced in March 1998 to five years' probation by U.S. District Justice Robert J. Cindrich for his part in a conspiracy led by Conley to transport illegal poker machines to the Rincon River Oaks Casino near San Diego. The machines are illegal in California.

Reed will be sentenced by Lee on Dec. 10, and Pollinger will be sentenced Dec. 17.

Five other associates of Conley had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and operating illegal gambling enterprises.

All who pleaded guilty have agreed, as part of the pleas they entered, to cooperate with federal authorities in their investigation of the video-gambling enterprise. Conley has not been charged.

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