A Chicago police officer was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for being a bookie in a multimillion-dollar sports gambling ring allegedly involving the brother of former NFL star Brian Urlacher.
Nicholas Stella, 43, was sentenced Thursday in Chicago after pleading guilty in April to being a key associate in an international gambling ring run by Illinois businessman Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice, according to the Department of Justice.
Prosecutors said Stella admitted in a plea agreement to recruiting gamblers who wagered millions on pro and college sporting events from 2016 through 2019.
Stella, whose attorney said he’ll likely lose his job as a cop after 19 years on the force, also regularly met with bettors to pay out winnings or collect loses, prosecutors said.
“Between my two big losers in Minnesota, they’ve dumped 73k,” Stella texted DelGiudice in December 2018, court documents show.
Months later, as New England took on Los Angeles in Super Bowl LIII, Stella sent a message to DelGiudice shortly before the February 2019 game asking him to contact gamblers directly to “settle up” after the game. The Patriots went on to beat the Rams 13-3 in Atlanta.
Stella apologized to a judge for his actions and admitted having a lifelong gambling problem that started as a child when he bet on games of Scrabble, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“I did use my own product, and I used it too much,” Stella said while choking back tears and comparing his actions to that of a drug dealer. “Every dollar I took in, I gambled away.”
Stella’s attorney had sought time served for the disgraced cop — who is currently on “inactive status” — but will likely be terminated and lose his pension for the conspiracy conviction, the Tribune reported.
Stella, a former Marine, was on disability leave from the department during the time he worked as a bookie – often spending his days at a poker machine while clutching a beer, attorney Michael Clancy said.
“He gambled in grammar school, he gambled in high school, he gambled before he was a police officer, he gambled while he was a police officer,” Clancy said.
Stella and nine others, including Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher — the brother of former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher — were charged in the scheme in February 2020.
Brian Urlacher, who retired after the 2012 season, was not named in the indictment. He was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
President Trump later pardoned Casey Urlacher — who had pleaded not guilty to recruiting bettors in the scheme — just hours before leaving the Oval Office in January.
DelGiudice, who pleaded guilty to money laundering earlier this year, is awaiting sentencing.