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WARREN 5 plead innocent to gaming charge

By Peggy Sinkovich

Friday, October 19, 2001

Conviction could bring up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each.
WARREN -- Officers of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 311 pleaded innocent to misdemeanor charges that they operated a gambling house.
Dan Antal, 70, Roseway S.E.; Bruce Bixler, 50, Willard S.E.; James Merten, 51, Ohio N.W.; Melvin P. Parrish, 44, Willard N.E.; and Emil J. Rossi, 55, Dunstan Drive N.W. appeared Thursday in municipal court.
Judge Thomas Gysegem released each on $1,500 bond and set pretrial hearings for January.
Defense lawyer: Atty. John Fowler, who is representing all five defendants, said he believes his clients are innocent. He said the FOE is a social organization that gives money to local charities.
"None of these men have any type of criminal record," Fowler said. "They gave money to a number of charities, including the Salvation Army."
Fowler said his clients were notified that they had been charged Wednesday and all voluntarily went to the police department Thursday.
If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, the men will face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Jeff Hoolihan, city police department detective, said all five were officers with the social organization located at 444 South St.
The arrests came after a yearlong investigation conducted by city police and the Ohio Investigative Unit of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Hoolihan said.
Suit against police: Fowler noted that the organization filed a civil lawsuit in Warren Municipal Court in August against the city police department.
The lawsuit, which is pending, says the police department "maliciously and purposely" seized $5,455 from the organization and $985 of Antal's personal money.