Former fire chief accused of illegal gambling operation 

A former South San Francisco fire battalion chief was arraigned Friday along with four other men who San Mateo County prosecutors say were running an illegal gambling operation involving thousands of dollars in wagers every day.

James Selvitella Jr., 52, who also owns Beyond the Glory, a bar in Petaluma, allegedly ran the gambling operation and solicited South San Francisco firefighters to make bets on sporting events, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

The operation came to light in July 2007 when an informant told Fire Chief Philip White about a firefighter who had incurred a $30,000 gambling debt to Selvitella, who was later fired for allegedly engaging in the bookmaking activities while on duty as a battalion chief, according to court records.

Selvitella, Michael Cooper, 50, William Kirkpatrick, 63, Louis Kristovich, 71, and Christopher Mesa, 64, all appeared in court in South San Francisco Friday to be arraigned on conspiracy and illegal bookmaking charges, according to the district attorney's office.

The California Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control assisted South San Francisco police in the investigation.

Prosecutors say Department of Justice agents conducted surveillance on the suspects and found that Cooper, Kristovich and Kirkpatrick acted as "bagmen" who collected and distributed money.

A search warrant for a house tied to Mesa also revealed betting records showing $470,000 in bets for just one day, according to the district attorney's office.

None of the five men entered pleas Friday, and all were released on their own recognizance. They are due back in court on Aug. 26, according to the district attorney's office.

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