Man pleads guilty to conspiracy, promoting gambling

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. -- A man charged with helping to run a gambling ring along with a Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach and a state trooper pleaded guilty to bookmaking Friday in a plea deal that says he will cooperate with authorities.

James Ulmer, 41, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and promoting gambling.

Of those linked by authorities to the gambling ring, the least is known about Ulmer, a Swedesboro resident.

The other alleged principals in the ring were ex-hockey star Rick Tocchet, who's on indefinite leave as a Coyotes coach, and New Jersey state police Trooper James Harney. When authorities earlier this year announced charges against the three, the news shook the hockey world in part because officials said several people related to the National Hockey League -- including Wayne Gretzky's wife -- were bettors.

In August, Harney pleaded guilty in the case and described how he and Tocchet were equal partners running the ring. Harney said then that Ulmer's role was smaller -- just to take bets.

On Friday, Ulmer did not lay out in any detail what he did or how the gambling ring operated. He did not mention the name of Tocchet or anyone else but simply said there were days he took more than five bets worth more than $1,000 -- meeting the technical elements of the crime.

He said he worked with other people as a bookmaker between September 2003 until February.

Ulmer faces up to 10 years in prison but, in return for his plea and his cooperation with authorities in the case, prosecutors are recommending a term in Burlington County Jail between six months and 364 days. He must also forfeit about $45,000.

Judge Thomas S. Smith scheduled a sentencing for Jan. 27, but it's unlikely to happen until the case against Tocchet is closed.

Ulmer did not shed any light on that. Questioned by reporters after the hearing, his lawyer, Edwin Jacobs, did not say whether Tocchet was even part of the same gambling ring and would not name any bettors.

Tocchet has not been indicted in the case.

Authorities have said that bettors in the case -- including some current NHL players and Janet Jones Gretzky, Wayne Gretzky's wife -- will not be charged.

NHL officials have said that it appears no bets were placed on hockey.