A soupcon of
Abramoff’s Indian gaming troubles may be getting the most publicity, his
other major 'area of concern’ is where the real scandal resides. Involvement
with Mob-run casino boats may turn out to be a faux pas, even for Republicans.
The casino boat ‘industry’
can be traced back to a few seemingly inconsequential sentences buried in a
1992 federal law called ''An Act to provide for the designation of the Flower
Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.''
(The “Flower Garden Banks”
are the northernmost coral reefs in the United States, located off Texas and
The obscure bill offered the
perfect place to slip in a few sentences, which, deciphered, added ships of
U.S. registry to vessels already covered under the Johnson Act of 1951, which
regulated the transportation of gambling devices, and allowed ships of foreign
registry, which often offered gambling, to dock at U.S. ports as long as no
one used or repaired gambling equipment while in U.S. territorial waters.
The amendment was a Trojan
horse which extended this privilege to U.S. ships…
And the result was a
burgeoning new industry in Florida, and the state was soon encircled by almost
thirty casino boats swarming the peninsula’s ports like the bloodthirsty
pirates of yore. The booty these pirates were plundering was the mad money of
They were called “cruises to
nowhere.” And in short order the boats were generating hundreds of millions of
dollars a year in revenues. Hundreds of million of dollars of
While not getting ahead of
ourselves, we still note that this was more than enough money to help tip the
balance in the last two Presidential elections. At a minimum, for the casino
operators it provided instant access to anything and anybody worth being
Thanks to the Johnson Act,
we’re protecting our coral reefs. But we may have lost our democracy.
Vegas without rules
What the Abramoff scandal is
about at the core can be simply stated as: Vegas without
rules. And what the
politicians are arguing over is the biggest slush fund in the history of the
world. Democrats don’t want to eliminate it. They just want in on the action.
owns Florida's gambling boats? No one is certain. There is virtually no state
or federal oversight. No one licenses the operators. No one ensures that the
games aren’t rigged. No
one ensures that the boats aren't used to launder money. No one investigates
whether organized crime is involved.
And while ex-felons
can’t vote in Florida—as many became aware during the memorable presidential
election in 2000—this disadvantage is more than offset, for some, by the
fact that an ex-felon can run a
gambling boat in the state with no fear
at all of flunking the background check.
The reason? There is none.
This situation clearly suits
some people just fine…. While Governor Jeb Bush may be minutely concerned with
what happened to Terry Schiavo fifteen years ago, on this issue of real
interest—massive corruption—he phones in his regrets.
Just why might that
represent "the largest unregulated gambling industry in the United States,"
said Bill Thompson, a professor of gambling at the University of Nevada at Las
Vegas and nationally recognized expert on the industry, in an interview in the
They gross at least $170
million a year. And that’s just the number they report voluntarily. No one
knows the true ‘take.’ Everyone assumes there’s a ‘skim.’
Miami Herald cited the example of Joseph Polidore, who listed himself as the
sole owner of Boca Casinos in Pompano Beach but said he received money for his
investment from a "personal friend." Polidore admitted he had silent partners,
but insisted they were “nobody illegal.”
What would happen if an
applicant gave such vague information to the Nevada Gaming Control Board? The
lack of regulation, officials elsewhere say, should concern Florida
"A casino is a cash business.
You could have money laundering and skimming," Keith Copher, chief of
enforcement for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told the Miami Herald. “When
you obtain money illegally through drug sales and other methods. You need to
find a way to launder it, to make it look like a legal source. Regulation is
needed to prevent this."
While “Florida authorities”
piously oppose gambling, their inaction speaks for itself, and may even have
been exploited by the 9.11 hijackers.
Betting Red All the Way
“There is a weird report just
a day or two after 9/11 that someone reported to the FBI that three or four of
the hijackers were seen gambling on a SunCruz boat,” wrote a source in Miami.
“The FBI interviewed everyone who might have seen them, that very day by all
Sure enough. We found an
Associated Press story on Sept 26, 2001 headlined “SunCruz Casinos turns over
documents in terrorist probe.”
“SunCruz Casinos has turned
over photographs and other documents to FBI investigators after employees said
they recognized some of the men suspected in the terrorist attacks as
customers.… Names on the passenger list from a Sept. 5 cruise matched those of
some of the hijackers... Two or three men linked to the Sept. 11 hijackings
may have been customers on a ship that sailed from Madeira Beach on Florida's
Less than a week before the
9.11 attack, Atta and several other hijackers were aboard one of Abramoff’s
casino boats. What no one seems able to answer is this:
What possible thrill could
gambling offer men getting ready to die in less than a week? To this date,
their Sept 5 visit to a gambling vessel overrun with retirees remains unexplained.
The gambling motif in the
terrorist’s timeline doesn’t end there. The hijackers had no apparent reason
to visit Las Vegas... so why did they?
On June 28 at Boston’s Logan
Airport, Mohamed Atta boarded a United Airlines flight and flew first class
nonstop to San
Francisco. He bypassed the bohemian North Beach district, and didn’t take the
cruise to Alcatraz…
Atta headed for Vegas.
On Aug. 10, Hani Hanjour and
Nawaf Alhazmi used first-class tickets for a United flight from Dulles Airport
near Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles International Airport, then on to Las
Vegas. The story of the terrorists Las Vegas connection may never be known,
admitted the Las Vegas FBI.
Murder will out
‘Islamic fundamentalist’ Atta
may have felt right at home in the world of fast cash and unlicensed gambling
boat ‘cruises to nowhere’ of Republican lobbyist (and observant Jew) Jack
Abramoff. He would almost certainly have been comfortable with the “gangland-style
hit straight out of ‘Goodfellas” that cemented Abramoff’s prominent
position in that industry.
At the time of the Sept 11
attack one of Abramoff’s chief claims to fame was as the proud owner of the
SunCruz line: a dozen unlicensed gambling boats plying the waters off the
Florida coast in a fashion which in any other state would have been considered
How did Jack Abramoff get
lucky enough to be the guy passing out all that long green? Where did Jack
Abramoff get his ‘juice?’
Short answer: Not everyone is
savvy to opportunities presented by riders in obscure legislation. Not so the
connected, the covert, the—dare we say “blessed?”
“Elite deviance” is a
sociological term for a condition in a society in which the elite in the
society come to believe that the rules no longer apply to them.
Casino boats turned out to be
a elite deviant’s dream.
One time-honored way to get
rich is to marry money. Another is to kill someone that has it… In Abramoff’s
case, it appears that Gus Boulis, the owner of the lion’s share of the casino
boats in Florida, had to die first.
Three men formed an ownership
group that apparently made Boulis the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse.
They bought SunCruz from him, even though it wasn't for sale.
Greek tycoon Gus Boulis was gunned down in his BMW on February 6, 2001 Fort
Lauderdale police investigators immediately began scrutinizing SunCruz
Casinos. Suspicion focused on the recent sale of the fleet. Boulis and one of
the three men had been carrying on a very public feud.
“We certainly aren't
lacking in suspects,” said a homicide detective drolly.
Less than two months later,
announced plans to move a 150-foot,
$10-million floating casino to the Northern Marianas.
every article we'd read cites
Delay's interest in the Marianas being sweat-shop related. Meaning they're in
favor of them. Their primary focus wasn't sweatshops. It was gambling.
A Bebe Rebozo Memorial Hit
“Read about SunCruz and it
sounds like a South Florida version of "The Sopranos,” reported the South
Florida Business Journal. “ Feds go after owner Gus Boulis. Former Miami Subs
kingpin forced to sell. New SunCruz chairman says Boulis threatened him.
As if to confirm the account,
other newspaper reports mentioned a climate of fear after the Boulis murder.
“The shooting death… cast a
pall of fear over the people who knew him, with some of his closest associates
admitting concern at being connected with a man targeted by hit men,” the
local Sun-Sentinel reported the day after the hit.
“There are a lot of people
who aren't talking for reasons of personal safety," said Fort Lauderdale
Police Detective Mike Reed.
Another associate declined to
discuss anything about Boulis with the paper…
"I've got my family to worry
about," he said, on condition of anonymity.
Even a cursory look at the
executive management of the cruise-to-nowhere company that Boulis founded
turns up violent thugs and organized crime figures. But that’s pretty typical
of South Florida...What is unusual are that in with Sun Cruz’s
mobbed-up crew are prominent Republican Party members with long-standing,
deep ties to the religious right.
Two SunCruz executives, Jack
Abramoff and Ben Waldman, are walking examples of the strange alliance between
the family-values party and the gambling industry. Both men have strong ties
to Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, which is adamantly opposed to
gambling; Waldman was Robertson top aide in the televangelist's run for the
Abramoff, who perhaps wisely
only took the title of vice president (less heat) has been connected to the
Christian right since a student at Brandeis University, where as head of the
College Republicans he enlisted Top Christian Ralph Reed as his top deputy.
The two have remained close friends ever since.
A man named Adam Kidan became
Sun Cruz’s new chairman. Kidan’s mother had been murdered in a gangland-style
hit in New York. Madonna’s one-time boyfriend and South Beach restaurateur
Chris Paciello, was eventually convicted in the case.
Today he is in Federal
Witness Protection, and word is there are several movies about him in
Just another American success
The Seminal Seminoles
The Seminole Tribe of Florida
led the way in parlaying mom-and-pop bingo parlors into today’s $19 billion a
year Indian casino industry. Along with legendary Chief James Billie (Wrestles
with Alligators) Rob Tiller was a seminal figure in this growth.
Tiller is also a South
Florida aviation insider and former business partner of terror flight school
owner and secretive financier Wally Hilliard. He even met Atta and Marwan one
day after a meeting with Hilliard, he says, with whom he was working on an
airline start-up called Havana Air.
A week before Gus Boulis was
murdered, Tiller was called to take a meeting with him. Tiller says Boulis
was scared. Boulis hadn’t wanted to sell.
Now he was worried he’d be
“He called me to a meeting at the Ocean Reef
Club. Very snooty. You cant even land there without permission. I flew my
airplane down to meet him,” Tiller recalled.
“He said, ‘I want out. People
think I make a lot more money than I really do. I don’t need the headache
anymore. I want to sell my casino boats to the Seminoles.’”
was Tiller’s response? “I said, ‘Gus you’re sure rocking a lot of people’s
”A couple days later, I
hear he’s been blown apart dead. See, Gus wanted to muscle his way into the
casino business in a real bad way. His Miami subs were everywhere. He was
using them to launder money, big-time, for
Who might that be? Even
asking the question brings a shiver.
He wrote a check?
the time Boulis was murdered, suspicion focused on company chairman Adam
Kidan, also an active Republican and campaign contributor. He had been in
Israel at the time of the murder. His alibi held.
But then news surfaced that
just before Boulis’ death Kidan had written at least $30,000 in checks
to a reputed Mob enforcer named Anthony Moscatiello, a one-time associate of
crime boss John Gotti.
Moscatiello is apparently
what is known in criminal parlance as a “torpedo.” (We're not quite sure
what that means, but it doesn't sound good.)
This is a
paper trail some U.S. Attorney's (in Manhattan, perhaps) would describe as "to
die for." But things work differently
in South Florida. To date no one has been charged in the murder of Gus
official back-story on Boulis is he left his native
Greece as a teenager and came to North America, bought a Toronto sandwich shop
and turned it into a successful company with
franchises all across Canada.
After his Canadian success,
he moved to Florida in the early 1980’s (to retire to the Keys, he said). But
Florida’s money-making opportunities overrode his desire for shuffleboard, and
soon he was building another successful fast-food chain, Miami Subs, and then
building and deploying the crown jewels in his empire, his SunCruz Casino
What explained Boulis’
success in a restaurant business where failure is far more common? The
question strikes some as naive.
"Miami subs was the first take
out place ever to serve Dom Perignon through the takeout window,” snickered
Tiller. “Word was he had made his money in Canada in the sub business. But I
learned later it was nothing but a Laundromat.”
We were once more back in the
precincts of money laundering, which seems more and more like one of Florida’s major
industries. We pictured dollar bills drying in the sun all over the state,
after being washed through the Everglades.
No doubt this is all
just freak coincidence. Still, even with our
suspicious minds, when we learned who Tiller thought was responsible for
Boulis’ death, we were shocked.
Tiller referred us to the
manner of the Boulis hit…
Setting an example
A man in a BMW was driving
down a quiet side street after an evening meeting at his Fort Lauderdale
office when a car slowed to a stop in front of him. A second car boxed the BMW
in from behind, then a dark Mustang appeared from the opposite direction. The
Mustang's driver pulled alongside and pumped three hollow-point bullets into
the BMW driver's chest.
“Boulis was murdered in the
exact same way as Don Aronow, Bush’s other partner,” he stated.
partner? The question hung in the air.
“Something is really
going down bad here,” Tiller stated. “Don Aronow. Gus. Jim Shore…All tied in
When NBC's Dateline did a story
recently about sources of terrorist funding right here in the U.S., they made
bold to announce “the emerging threat of a new alliance between al Qaeda and
But it was hardly time to
stop the presses.
Over three years ago—within a
month of the 9.11 attack—British Prime Minister Tony Blair had presented the
case against Bin Laden. He sketched out the Cliff Notes version of the
evidence. It wasn’t much, but it was the only explanation we ever received.
“Al Qaeda is a terrorist
organization with ties to a global network,” Blair said.
In truth, the idea that
Mohamed Atta and his henchmen needed help from an outside organization while
they were in the U.S. was easy to understand... Logistical support is
difficult to arrange from caves.
Still, the FBI stepped in and
quickly put a kibosh on that kind of talk… “Government sources now say that
the investigation so far suggests the 19 had ‘no major help’ in the United
States," said a story in the Washington Post which came out soon after Blair’s
alarming faux pas.
"The 19 hijackers who carried
out the worst act of terror ever to occur on U.S. soil worked with little
outside help as a single, integrated group,” the Post reported.
PBS’s Frontline documentary
on 9.11 supported this ‘lone cadre theory.’ Correspondent Hedrick Smith,
to his everlasting discredit, opened the show with this lie: “19 hijackers
slipped through Europe and America unnoticed.”
Like lone gunmen,
lone cadres are easier to explain.
Even in the
seemingly-unrelated Heaven's Gate mass suicide in the posh enclave of Rancho
Santa Fe near San Diego, which we will learn is not so far afield from 9.11 as
might appear, the cultists were quickly dubbed a lone cadre.
“We have absolutely
nothing... that would indicate that this is anything but a sole group of 40
people,” stated the chief investigator on the case.
Although a cache of weapons
was found in a storage locker of the (supposedly) nonviolent cult, and the
Heaven’s Gate leader left a videotape conspicuously praising the Order of the
Solar Temple, whose members had been found dead in a mass suicide just days
Well, you know the story by
now. Almost everyone does. In the gap between what happens every
day and what gets reported lies the secret history…
“There’s a secret world all
around us,” a legendary CIA agent informs a young recruit in “Overworld,”
L.J.. Kolb’s eye-opening account of growing up as the son of an American spy.
“You just don’t see it unless you know where to look.”
Nothing to see here, folks.