Lawyer: No mob connection in gambling case

A New Jersey-based gambling ring linked to Wayne Gretzky had no ties to organized crime, a defense lawyer involved in the case said Tuesday, contradicting the claims of state officials.

Officials have said investigators are looking into how deep mob involvement might have been in the sports-betting ring allegedly run by former hockey star Rick Tocchet and two other men.

"If they come up with a Bruno-Scarfo crime family connection, I'll pay their salaries for a year," said Charles A. Peruto Jr., the lawyer for James Ulmer, a Woolwich man charged with promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy.

Peruto's comments referred to the La Cosa Nostra family that has long dominated organized crime in the Philadelphia area.

"Lawyers' comments don't concern us," said New Jersey State Police Capt. Al Della Fave. "We have significant evidence with regard to this investigation. As time passes, we're sure that everyone's questions will be answered."

State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes has said the gambling ring -- like many illegal sports books -- had ties to the mob. So far, no organized crime-related charges have been filed in the case.

Ulmer, New Jersey state trooper James Harney and Tocchet, who has taken leave from his job as Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach, were charged last week with running a five-year-old sports-betting ring that officials say handled $1.7 million worth of wagers over a six-week period from late December until Feb. 5, the day of the Super Bowl.

"Our understanding to date is that it wasn't so much the trooper that was financing it as it was Mr. Tocchet," Della Fave told ESPN.com. "That is what we are alleging -- that he was the financier."

The bettors included Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones Gretzky, according to sources who have spoken on condition of anonymity, and also included several NHL players, officials have said.

Neither Gretzky, now the coach of the Coyotes, Jones Gretzky nor any other hockey player aside from Tocchet has been charged. Sources have told the AP that they are not the center of the investigation.

Robert Cleary, a lawyer hired by the NHL to investigate hockey players' involvement, has said it appears there were no wagers on hockey and that no games were fixed.

Gretzky himself was caught on a wiretap last Monday talking with Tocchet about how to hide his wife's involvement, people with knowledge of the investigation have told The Associated Press.

Harney, Tocchet and Ulmer are due in Superior Court in Mount Holly on Feb. 21.