BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Two former Batavia firefighters who were at the center of a gambling investigation were set to learn their fate in court Tuesday.
But because of a scheduling glitch, the former first responders won't be sentenced for three more weeks. However, they did learn they won't go to jail and instead will work off their sentences.
Former Batavia firefighters Gregory Phillips, and Brian Bordinaro, along with former VA Hospital cook Lance Engle are all expected to serve about 16 weekends of public service after admitting to running a sports betting operation that involved tens of thousands of dollars. As part of the plea deal, all three had to resign from their jobs.
Gregory Phillips' attorney, Larry Andolina, said, "It was a little more than I expected but we'll come back to court on the 26th and deal with the case."
Sentencing won't formally take place until March 26th because it has to coincide with when the work program can begin, but Batavia City Judge Robert Balbick told all three Tuesday that he will likely sentence them to three years probation, and 120 days in a program that involves community service every weekend.
Lance Engle's attorney, Joseph LaTona, said, "The judge was certainly well within his discretion in imposing the sentence that he did and this is known as a split sentence where it combines some degree of community service with probation."
All three were originally charged with felonies but were able to take a reduced plea to a misdemeanor of promoting gambling.
Genesee County District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said, "I guess it's up to individuals to determine how serious the case is. Different people obviously have different opinions on gambling offenses but the evidence was there to prosecute the case and we felt it was appropriate."
Prosecutors insist they had evidence that at times Phillips and Bordinaro were even taking bets while on duty at the firehouse. But did a possible convict of interest lead to the reduced plea?
News 4 has learned that Sgt. Steven Mullen, who has since retired from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, may have placed bets of his own with the trio before becoming a lead investigator in this case. A private investigation uncovered that Mullen as well as his brother made several calls to the men running the gambling operation.
We asked Gregory Phillips, who laughed and said, "You know something."
His attorney added, "The investigation wasn't handled appropriately. You might want to ask Larry Friedman."
But Friedman would not comment beyond, "I'm not going to speculate on that."
What is known is that shortly after all three defendants were allowed to take a plea to reduced charges, Sgt. Mullen retired.
At the time of their arrests, Sgt. Mullen said, "Some people are in debt thousands of dollars with these people."
News 4 is told that the FBI is looking into this case, but the agency never confirms or denies cases it is investigating.
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