With the ongoing Powerball frenzy, I’ve been thinking about the somewhat shady out-of-state lottery shop that operated briefly here around 25 years ago.
The place was on Newark Ave, just east of Five Corners, in Jersey City. It was run by a son of Charlie Fiola — a good friend of my father’s. The would-be lottery lord — who’d lived for years in Easton, PA — might have been named Charlie, too, but my memory’s not certain on that. His brother (half-brother?) was Anthony Fiola — once a candidate for City Council — whose appliance store was just about across the street.
Basically as soon as the betting joint’s doors began to swing the powers that be wanted to padlock them. Young Fiola for a while was able to fend off legal challenges, but eventually was forced to close.
Charlie Fiola, the father, had an amusing story that he told from time to time in the Tunnel Bar. Years before, he’d suffered the career setback of an arrest as part of a truck hijacking ring. The roundup took in ten people. The nine others pleaded guilty and testified against him. Once the snitches were on the stand, Charlie’s lawyers ripped into them for their long criminal histories. The attorney yelled questions, accusing the ring members of lying to save their own skins. Charlie Fiola chose not to take the stand, so the prosecutor was not able to pose similar questions and so deliver an equally dramatic performance. Charlie Fiola was found not guilty.