The Magazine

Money, Mobsters, Murder

The sordid tale of a GOP lobbyist's casino deal gone bad.

Nov 28, 2005, Vol. 11, No. 11 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Gambling doesn't destroy people. People destroy people. The gentleman or gentlewoman who decides to gamble makes that decision of his own free will. It's a free market industry, and that appeals to conservatives.

--Michael Scanlon

AT ABOUT 8 p.m. on the night of September 26, a homicide detective with the Ft. Lauderdale police department entered the home of Anthony Moscatiello in the Howard Beach section of Queens, New York. Once inside, he placed the 67-year-old "caterer," aka "Big Tony," under arrest. Around 11 p.m., a thousand miles away in North Miami Beach, police stormed the condominium where Anthony Ferrari lived with his wife and two children and took the 48-year-old "security consultant," aka "Little Tony," into custody. And the next morning, in Palm Coast, Florida, police arrested 28-year-old James Fiorillo. Fiorillo, aka "Pudgy," worked at the Builder's First hardware store in Bunnell. "Everybody loves him," Fiorillo's supervisor, Kurt Wright, told the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Not everybody, it turned out. A few days earlier, a Broward County grand jury had indicted all three men on charges of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. In addition the grand jury had indicted Moscatiello and Ferrari on charges of solicitation of first degree murder. All have pled not guilty. All are in prison, having been denied bond.

The murder in question occurred over four years ago, on February 6, 2001, in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. The victim was Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, a 51-year-old Greek immigrant who had made a fortune as a restaurateur, real estate developer, and casino operator. Boulis was a legend in South Florida and, in his own way, a pioneer. It was Boulis who in 1994 bought a luxury yacht, turned its interior into a casino, and began to operate "cruises to nowhere" in which passengers would ride the refitted vessels into international waters where Florida state gambling prohibitions did not apply. There, out on the sea, passengers would spend millions at poker and blackjack and slots. Boulis called his fleet of 11 ships the SunCruz Casino line. By the time he sold the company in 2000 SunCruz Casinos was earning tens of millions of dollars in annual profits and employed over 1,000 people. What Boulis probably did not know when he was shot was that those who allegedly plotted and executed his murder were on his company's payroll.

Moscatiello, Ferrari, and Fiorillo are not the only men who have been arrested lately in connection with the SunCruz Casino line. Adam Kidan, the former owner of the Washington, D.C., Dial-a-Mattress franchise and for nine months (September 27, 2000, to July 9, 2001) the president of SunCruz, turned himself in to Ft. Lauderdale police on August 12. The day before, Jack Abramoff, the ex-lobbyist, former movie producer, and for virtually the same nine months (September 27, 2000, to June 22, 2001) the vice president of SunCruz Casinos, had been arrested in Los Angeles. A grand jury had indicted both men on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in their purchase of SunCruz. Kidan and Abramoff are free on bail. Their trial is scheduled to begin on January 9.

And the plot thickens: For over a year now the Washington press corps has followed with much interest the ongoing Justice Department investigation--unrelated to SunCruz--into Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon, former press secretary to former House majority leader Tom DeLay. Investigators are looking into potential violations of lobbying-disclosure and tax laws in Abramoff and Scanlon's work for several Indian tribes, which paid them upward of $80 million in lobbying fees, as well as the laundering of that money through tax-exempt foundations and charities. The Justice Department inquiry nabbed its first suspect in September, when David Safavian, the former White House procurement director, was arrested and charged with making false statements and obstructing justice (see my "Scandal Season," October 10). Last week the Justice Department filed a criminal information against Scanlon charging that he did "knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with Lobbyist A"--that would be Abramoff--"and with other persons known and unknown to the United States to commit offenses against the United States." Additional arrests are likely. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Indian Affairs committee, is quietly wrapping up his own investigation into Abramoff, and a report from his committee staff is expected early next year. Once McCain concludes his investigation, Iowa Republican senator Charles Grassley's Finance Committee is expected to hold additional hearings on Abramoff's manipulation of the tax code.