News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Arrests Made in Case Connected to Abramoff

Three Men Allegedly Killed 'Gus' Boulis, Who Sold A Casino Cruise Line to the Embattled Washington Lobbyist

By James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 27, 2005; 4:45 PM

Fort Lauderdale police have arrested three men on murder and conspiracy charges in the 2001 gangland-style killing of a South Florida businessman who sold a casino cruise line to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, authorities said today.

Police picked up Anthony Moscatiello, 67, Anthony Ferrari, 48, and James Fiorillo, 28, last night and this morning in connection with the ambush slaying of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who was killed in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001.

Boulis had sold SunCruz Casinos to Abramoff and a partner, Adam Kidan, in 2000 at a time when Abramoff was one of Washington's most powerful lobbyists. Abramoff and Kidan were indicted last month on charges of wire fraud in connection with the purchase of the company. Moscatiello, known to police as a bookkeeper to New York's Gambino crime family, was brought in as consultant by Kidan when he and Abramoff took control of SunCruz. Ferrari is a business associate of Moscatiello.

Abramoff is at the center of a federal investigation into lobbying for Indian tribes and influence-peddling in Washington. Abramoff used contacts with Republican Reps. Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Robert W. Ney (Ohio) and members of their staffs as he worked to land the SunCruz deal, interviews and court records show.

Ney twice placed comments in the Congressional Record at key points while Abramoff and Kidan were wrangling with Boulis over the purchase and control of the company. Ney first sharply criticized Boulis and later praised the new ownership under Kidan. Ney later said he was duped into making the comments by an Abramoff aide.

Also during the negotiations, Abramoff brought a lender he was trying to impress to hobnob with DeLay in Abramoff's FedEx Field skybox at a Redskins-Cowboys game. DeLay has said he did not remember meeting the lender.

Fort Lauderdale homicide detectives say they have been interested in interviewing Abramoff for years, but he has repeatedly begged off, citing scheduling difficulties. Abramoff's lawyer, Neal Sonnett, said after the fraud indictment that his client knows nothing about the murder but would be willing to meet with police. Kidan, who was interviewed by police in 2001, also has denied any knowledge of the murder.

Police have long said they knew who killed Boulis but needed more evidence to bring a case. Late last week, police persuaded the Broward County State Attorney's Office that they had enough evidence to get a grand jury indictment. The indictment of the three men was handed up Thursday and remains under seal.

Moscatiello was arrested at 8 p.m. yesterday in his Howard Beach home in Queens, N.Y. Ferrari was arrested at 11:15 p.m. in Miami. Both were being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder. Fiorillo, who was arrested this morning in Palm Coast, Fla., was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy.

Michael D. Becker, an attorney in Miami who has represented the men in other matters, said he has not had a chance to speak to any of them yet. "The arrest certainly came out of the blue," he said today.

Five years ago, Abramoff, Kidan and former Reagan administration official Ben Waldman of Springfield, purchased SunCruz from Boulis, 51, the millionaire founder of the popular Miami Subs sandwich shop chain. Abramoff and Kidan have been friends since their days together as College Republicans in Washington. Kidan, of New York City, owned the Dial-a-Mattress chain in the District until the franchise went into bankruptcy in the 1990s.

On Aug. 11, Abramoff and Kidan were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy relating to their $147.5 million SunCruz purchase. Prosecutors alleged that Abramoff and Kidan faked a wire transfer of $23 million -- the down payment they had agreed to put into the deal for the fleet of Florida-based day-cruise casino boats.

Boulis remained a minority partner in SunCruz after the deal, but the relationship soured quickly.

In October 2000, in the midst of the infighting with Boulis, Kidan turned to a friend of 15 years, Moscatiello, who began visiting Kidan's condominium and golfing with Kidan and Waldman. Moscatiello in 1983 was indicted on federal heroin-trafficking charges along with Gene Gotti, brother of John Gotti, then the head of the Gambino crime family. Gene Gotti and several others were convicted and sentenced to prison, but charges against Moscatiello were later dropped.

Kidan met Moscatiello in 1990 when he was running New York City's Best Bagels in the Hamptons and Moscatiello was running a catering hall. Moscatiello provided Kidan advice on running the business. Kidan said in a deposition he was unaware of Moscatiello's 1983 indictment or his affiliations with the Gambino family.

In December 2000, the trouble with Boulis boiled over in a fistfight between Kidan and Boulis. Kidan described the fight to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, telling the newspaper that Boulis said, "I'm not going to sue you, I'm going to kill you." Kidan said that SunCruz thereafter barred Boulis from its casino ships. "We fired his friends, we fired his family and he wasn't happy with it," Kidan said. "This guy is violent -- he's sleazy."

That month SunCruz made the first of $145,000 in payments to Moscatiello and his daughter. Three checks for $10,000 each were made to his daughter, Jennifer Moscatiello. A fourth check for $115,000 was made to Gran-Sons, a company the Moscatiellos ran. The payments were for catering, consulting and "site inspections," Kidan said in a civil court deposition in 2001.

There is no evidence that any food or drink were provided or that any consulting documents were prepared, according to court documents. The checks to Jennifer Moscatiello were made at Anthony Moscatiello's instruction, although his daughter provided no services for the money, Kidan said in his deposition.

Ferarri is a principal in Moon Over Miami Beach Inc., which received $95,000 from SunCruz for surveillance services in early 2001.

Abramoff and Kidan were traveling on business abroad at the time of Boulis's murder.

Demotion of a Prosecutor Is Investigated - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 - The Justice Department's inspector general and the F.B.I. are looking into the demotion of a veteran federal prosecutor whose reassignment nearly three years ago shut down a criminal investigation of the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, current and former department officials report.

They said investigators had questioned whether the demotion of the prosecutor, Frederick A. Black, in November 2002 was related to his alert to Justice Department officials days earlier that he was investigating Mr. Abramoff. The lobbyist is a major Republican Party fund-raiser and a close friend of several Congressional leaders.

Colleagues said the demotion of Mr. Black, the acting United States attorney in Guam, and a subsequent order barring him from pursuing public corruption cases brought an end to his inquiry into Mr. Abramoff's lobbying work for some Guam judges.

Colleagues of Mr. Black, who had run the federal prosecutor's office in Guam for 12 years, spoke on condition of anonymity because of Justice Department rules that bar employees from talking to reporters. They said F.B.I. agents questioned several people in Guam and Washington this summer about whether Mr. Abramoff or his friends in the Bush administration had pushed for Mr. Black's removal. Mr. Abramoff's internal e-mail messages show that he boasted to clients about what he described as his close ties to John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, and others at the department.

Mr. Black's colleagues said that similar questions had been raised by investigators for the Justice Department's inspector general's office, which serves as the department's internal watchdog.

Spokesmen for the department in Washington have said there was nothing unusual about the timing of Mr. Black's reassignment in 2002. They said it was appropriate for the Bush administration to want to replace him with a permanent, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.

Mr. Abramoff, once one of the capital's best-paid lobbyists, is now the subject of a broad corruption investigation by federal prosecutors in Washington focusing on accusations that he defrauded Indian tribes and their gambling operations out of millions of dollars in lobbying fees.

A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff said he had "no recollection of being investigated in Guam in 2002" but would have cooperated if he had been aware of any inquiry at the time. Mr. Abramoff had a lucrative lobbying practice on Guam and the neighboring Northern Mariana Islands, another American territory; his lobbying clients paid for luxurious trips to the islands for several members of Congress.

Justice Department officials said they knew of no evidence to suggest that Mr. Ashcroft was involved in the decision to reassign Mr. Black. A spokesman for Mr. Ashcroft said the former attorney general and his aides at the Justice Department had done nothing to assist Mr. Abramoff and his clients and had had no significant contact with him.

Reached in Guam, Mr. Black, who continues to work as an assistant United States attorney, declined to answer questions about his 2002 reassignment.

The Los Angeles Times and news organizations in Guam have reported on questions about the circumstances of Mr. Black's demotion. The recent inquiries by the F.B.I. and by the Justice Department's inspector general had not been previously reported; nor had Mr. Black's contacts in November 2002 with the department's public integrity section about his investigation of Mr. Abramoff.

In a statement on Monday, the department said it was natural for the Bush administration to replace Mr. Black, whose assignment to run the United States attorney's office was never meant to be permanent, with a White House selection.

The department said the vetting process for Mr. Black's replacement, Leonardo Rapadas, the current United States attorney, was "well under way in November 2002," when the nomination was announced.

Colleagues said they recalled that Mr. Black was distressed when he was notified by the department in November 2002 that he was being replaced.

The announcement came only days after Mr. Black had notified the department's public integrity division in Washington, by telephone and e-mail communication, that he had opened a criminal investigation into Mr. Abramoff's lobbying activities for the Guam judges, the colleague said. The judges had sought Mr. Abramoff's help in blocking a bill in Congress to restructure the island's courts.

The colleagues said that Mr. Black was also surprised when his newly arrived bosses in Guam blocked him from involvement in public corruption cases in 2003. Justice Department officials said Mr. Black was asked instead to focus on terrorism investigations, which had taken on new emphasis after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Whatever the motivation in replacing Fred, his demotion meant that the investigation of Abramoff died," said a former colleague in Guam.

The Justice Department's public integrity section is responsible for cases involving government corruption. It is now overseeing the larger investigation of Mr. Abramoff in Washington.

Representative George Miller, a California Democrat who has long focused on issues involving American territories in the Pacific, said the disclosures about Mr. Black's demotion raised questions about a possible conflict of interest at the Justice Department in its investigation of Mr. Abramoff.

"What this starts to suggest is that Abramoff's ability to corrupt the system was far more pervasive, certainly than we knew at the time," Mr. Miller said.


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