SHENANDOAH – Four men, including a Tri-Valley school principal, accused of running illegal gambling businesses in the district appeared Thursday for preliminary hearings in district court.
State Police Soldier Thomas Luscan of the Organized Crime Task Force has charged Guy Julian, 46, 365 Grove Drive, Hegins; Ronald A. Muraczewski, 63, 100 S. Main St., Apt. 4, Shenandoah; Robert Piekarski, 79, 35 E. Center St., Shenandoah; and Frederick L. Gradwell, 68, 120 Schuylkill Ave., Shenandoah.
Luscan said the charges stemmed from investigations into two separate but affiliated joint-selling and book-making companies, one called The Joint, at 16 E. Center St., and the other Rob’s Book, at 35 E. Center St. Businesses are running out of storefronts without signs.
The soldier said the investigation was sparked by an anonymous tip-off regarding the operation of illegal sports betting and video game devices by The Joint as well as the Pennsylvania Lottery Daily Issue. Luscan said the company was owned by Julian and Gradwell was the “daily leader”.
Luscan said Julian also owns a nearby building that houses Jean’s News Stand which operates a legal Pennsylvania lottery but covers “big bets” for The Joint.
The ensuing investigation included 16 undercover operations at The Joint and 10 at Rob’s Book between January 17, 2020 and January 25, 2021, the soldier said.
During each of the undercover operations, the soldiers were able to place bets consisting of a combination of sports betting and illegal Pennsylvania lotteries, as well as playing on illegal gaming devices. Meanwhile, Private Joseph Krawizcki obtained payments from sports betting and video game devices and the payments were made by both Gradwell and Muraczewski.
According to Luscan, on January 27, a search warrant was obtained. When questioned that day, each of the four men acknowledged their role in the illegal operations of both companies. Charges were filed May 7 with Judicial District Judge Anthony J. Kilker, Shenandoah.
Julian, a member of the Tri-Valley School Board, has been charged with one count of organizing lottery games or number games, permitting gambling, permitting on-site gambling, and permitting use of the premises for pools or bets. Julian waived his right to a hearing on the charge of setting up lottery games or numbers while prosecutors withdrew the three remaining offenses.
Julian later said he hadn’t thought about quitting the school board.
“You can’t move forward if you look in the rearview mirror,” he said later.
The other three men were charged as follows: Muraczewski: game apparatus and custodian of property hunted down; Piekarski: authorize gambling, authorize on-site gambling and authorize the use of the premises for pools or bets; Gradwell: manufacture of lottery tickets or illegal numbers, gaming devices and custody of hunted goods.
All have waived their rights to a hearing and will now respond to charges in Schuylkill County Court, where they can plead guilty or plead not guilty and request a trial.