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Zappala campaign to return $15K received from convicted felon

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Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. will return $15,000 donated to his campaign for state attorney general from a company owned by Scranton businessman Louis DeNaples, a convicted felon with reputed mob ties.

Marty Marks, campaign manager for Zappala, said the campaign was not aware of DeNaples’ connection to the contributions until the Tribune-Review asked about it.

“After being informed of the facts, Stephen Zappala has instructed the campaign to return the Pocono Gardens Realty donation,” Marks wrote in a statement to the Trib on Monday. “As Attorney General, even though the contribution was legal, reported and transparent, he believes it is important for the state’s top law enforcement officer to lead by example and avoid even the appearance of impropriety whenever possible.”

Marks said the money was raised by supporters in the Scranton area working for the campaign.

Zappala is vying for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general in the April 26 primary. He faces two opponents, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro.

No donations from Pocono Gardens Realty appeared on finance reports filed by the Morganelli and Shapiro campaigns.

Morganelli said he was not going to get “all worked up” over the contributions and said he believes the campaign did not know it was taking money affiliated with DeNaples.

Joe Radosevich, Shapiro’s campaign manager, said, “At a time when there is a crisis of confidence in our justice system, Zappala’s actions raise serious questions about his integrity and his commitment to ethics.”

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who is facing felony charges and is not seeking re-election, received $25,000 from Pocono Gardens Realty in October 2013. She returned the contribution in December 2013.

Zappala has raised about $1.1 million this year. The donations from Pocono Gardens Realty, received in March and April, account for about 1 percent of his total contributions.

DeNaples is the former owner of Mount Airy Casino Resort. Pocono Gardens Realty bought the Pocono Gardens Lodge, a vacant building near the casino, in 2009 for $225,000, according to published real estate transaction reports.

DeNaples is a 99 percent owner of Pocono Gardens Realty, according to documents filed with the Federal Reserve in 2014. He could not be reached Monday.

DeNaples received a gaming license from the state in 2006. He was later charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the Gaming Control Board about his reputed ties to the Bufalino organized crime family. He has denied any ties to organized crime.

In 2009, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico’s office dropped charges against DeNaples in return for his divesting his casino ownership. The casino was turned over to his daughter Lisa DeNaples.

Louis DeNaples pleaded no contest to federal felony fraud charges in 1978 in connection with allegations that he overcharged the federal government for cleanup work performed by one of his companies in the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

The Trib in 2008 conducted a study of campaign finance records showing DeNaples donated $1.1 million to federal, state and local candidates. Most of the money was given from 2001 through 2005 when the Legislature and governor were considering whether to legalize casinos.

Former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and former Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow, a Lackawanna County Democrat, were among the largest recipients.

So was former Attorney General Tom Corbett, a Republican, who noted DeNaples was not under investigation or applying for a license when he donated.

He also donated to the Democratic State Committee and the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

Brad Bumsted and Aaron Aupperlee are Tribune-Review staff writers. Bumsted can be reached at 717-787-1405 or [email protected]. Aupperlee can be reached at 412-320-7986 or [email protected].

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