Dirksen Federal Courthouse | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

A prosecutor said Matthew Knight was the second biggest agent in the gambling ring run by Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice, but he was third in “overall culpability” behind DelGiudice and Chicago Police Officer Nicholas Stella.

A federal judge on Thursday gave six months of community confinement to a key player in a large-scale, international gambling ring based around Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall also gave two years of probation and a $10,000 fine to Matthew Knight, ordering him to serve 100 hours of community service. She said she spared him prison time in part due to his lack of criminal history, remorse and cooperation with investigators.

Knight is the sixth person to be sentenced in a series of related gambling cases filed in Chicago’s federal court since early 2020. Two of the five who were previously sentenced landed prison time, but three others managed to avoid it.

Another defendant, Mettawa Mayor Casey Urlacher, was pardoned in January by then-President Donald Trump.

Prosecutors argued that a sentence of about a year in prison would be appropriate for Knight, based on “the massive scale of this gambling operation.” Knight’s defense attorney, Todd Pugh, asked for probation and home confinement, describing Knight as a recent widower with three teenage daughters who has been repeatedly visited by “personal loss and tragedy.”

Before he was sentenced, Knight told the judge that his business partners and other members of his community have cut ties with him. He repeatedly said he took responsibility for his crime.

“I did this to myself and everyone around me,” Knight said.

As she handed down the sentence, Kendall said she found a report on Knight’s personal background written by court personnel to be “rather heartbreaking.” She told Knight that “today is pretty much the lowest day of your life” but added, “there have been some low days in the past.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ankur Srivastava wrote in a court memo that Knight was the second biggest agent involved in the gambling ring run by Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice, but he was third in “overall culpability” behind DelGiudice and Chicago Police Officer Nicholas Stella.

DelGiudice has pleaded guilty but has yet to be sentenced. Stella was sentenced in July to 15 months behind bars.

Knight’s gamblers generated $901,504 between January and mid-December 2018, according to Srivastava — a figure that doesn’t include winnings from college football bowl games played at the end of the year. An FBI forensic examiner said it is typical for a gambling operation to accept 20 times as much in wagers as it makes in profit, meaning Knight’s gamblers could have made $18 million in wagers, the prosecutor wrote.

Srivastava added that “lives have been destroyed,” and he wrote that investigators have “met with individuals whose careers, marriages, family life, and lives were ruined by their affiliation with the gambling enterprise.”

Pugh wrote in his own memo that Knight “immediately accepted responsibility” when approached by law enforcement and cooperated “to an extent unlike his co-defendants.” He insisted that Knight “was not a predatory bookie that preyed upon individuals struggling with addiction.”

“Bettors settled their account with Mr. Knight when they could, and the only consequence of not paying was not being able to continue to place bets,” Pugh wrote.

Pugh also pointed, like other defense attorneys in the case, to the ever-expanding popularity of legal sports betting — including potentially at Wrigley Field.

“None of these observations excuse or justify Mr. Knight’s criminal conduct,” Pugh wrote, “but they do illustrate that sports betting is incredibly popular, widely accepted, and enjoyed by a significant portion of society.”

The other person sentenced to prison time in a related gambling case was Gregory Paloian, a bookie who prosecutors say ran his operation through DelGiudice’s network. U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow gave Paloian a two-and-a-half year prison sentence in April, but she agreed to push his surrender date back until August 2022 for health reasons.

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