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The three Batavia men arrested in February for running an illegal gambling operation, including two city firefighters, have entered guilty pleas to a greatly reduced charge.

Gregory Phillips and Brian Bordonaro along with Lance Engel pleaded guilty in City Court today to a Class A misdemeanor charge of promoting gambling.

“It’s been my experience this is the standard, garden-variety plea for individuals without any criminal history when they’re initially charged with gambling,” Gregory Phillips's attorney Joseph LaTona said. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Typical result for a typical case, period, end of story.”

The pleas are dramatically reduced from the Class B felony of enterprise corruption -- the elevated charge determined in April. The felony carried a maximum penalty of eight to 25 years in state prison. Lance Engel's attorney Larry Andolina says the charge should have be been a misdemeanor all along.

“…Million-dollar operation, people losing tens of thousands of dollars? It’s all nonsense," Andolina said. "This was little people gambling on football games. It was blown so out of proportion, which is why it ended up being a misdemeanor.”

“Did you buy a lottery ticket for the Powerball? As I said when they got arraigned, I just don’t think gambling is that serious a crime given all the gambling that goes on," Andolina said. "Times need to be changed.”

All three agreed to resign their government jobs as part of the plea deal. Bordonaro and Phillips were veterans of 18 and 17 years respectively of the fire department and Engel was a cook with the state’s veterans home in Batavia.

Sentencing for all three defendants is set for March 5.

"I feel good about it," Andolina said. "This is how the case myself and the other attorneys felt should come out in the end. It just took us a little while to get there."

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