Moon over Miami Beach sound
as phony as some of Abramoff’s other
dummy front companies. We recalled
the "premiere international think
tank" he set up called the American
International Center, through which
rivers of cash were laundered.
"Want to head an international
American International Centre was
promoted as "bringing great minds
together from all over the globe"
under the "high-power directorship"
of David Grosh, who turned out to be
a rather under-powered lifeguard.
to be head of an international
corporation?" Grosh told an
incredulous Senate committee hearing
he was asked. "I was like, ‘sure.’
It was a hard one to turn down. I
asked him what I had to do, and he
sounded pretty good to me."
Abramoff charged exorbitant fees for
work he didn't do, and set up fake
charities to shelter the ill-gotten
gains. There were phony grass-roots
Christian groups. Phony billing
statements. And nonprofits with
we took a closer look at “Moon over
Miami Beach” we discovered the
previously undisclosed gambling
associations of the firms’ other
two officers, Frank and Thomas
accounts identified Frank Pepper as
“the 77-year old founder of one of
Miami's oldest real estate
companies,” and Thomas Pepper as his
nephew, a friend of Ferrari and one
of four men who received $10,000 in
Sun Cruz casino chips.
history of gambling in South Florida
startling twist, we have learned
that the Pepper family—one of the
Miami families dating back to the
boom time 1920s—has a rich history
of involvement in gambling in South
Florida that seems germane today in
a murder investigation of a man who
owned floating casinos.
more than 30 years, reported the
June 30, 1991 St. Petersburg Times,
the FBI and its legendary director
J. Edgar Hoover collected details
about Claude Pepper in an effort to
link him to corruption.
files indicated that Pepper "is
suspected of receiving graft through
various political manipulations and
maneuvers in the state of Florida,
although no positive evidence has
ever been offered in this request."
FBI’s suspicion of Pepper may have
owed something to the “considerable
notoriety” he enjoyed because of his
public objections to FBI
field agent in the FBI's Washington
office once wrote Hoover that he was
surprised that Pepper had attacked
the bureau because agents there had
once recovered a diamond bracelet of
Mrs. Pepper's which she lost in a
shall always be most grateful to you
and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation for the exceedingly
kind and efficient service which you
rendered to me and to Mrs. Pepper,"
Pepper wrote Hoover in a thank-you
Claude Pepper a clue?
bottom of the note, reported the St
Petersburg Times story, Hoover
personally added his own sentiment:
"Pepper has to serve his masters,
the Florida politicians and
Besides looking at Pepper's ties to
left-wing organizations, the paper
reported, the FBI also questioned
whether Pepper’s nephew was
running a gambling operation.
In 1986, Pepper formed the
not-for-profit Mildred and Claude
Pepper Foundation, to “promote
policies and programs which will
improve health, provide economic
opportunity and contribute to social
justice for all Americans,”
according to their literature.
dandy ambition. But despite its
lofty goals, the foundation carried
on with a very modest budget, until
after Pepper's death at age
89, when the financial
picture turned unexpectedly rosy...
U.S. Congress appropriated $
10-million for the foundation from—are
you ready for this?—the
Department of Defense budget,
“a direct and unrestricted grant to
support the purposes of the
foundation and to serve as a
memorial to Pepper.”
never heard of government money used
to create a foundation like that,”
Robert Bothwell, executive director
of the National Committee for
Responsive Philanthropy in
the creative ways the foundation has
found to spend money: $10,000 to the
Association of Jesuit Colleges
and Universities in El
Salvador, during the height of
the Contra unpleasantness.
sure we could find more.
BushFellas meet The Soprano's
various Abramoff scandals are the
brewing scandals Republicans fear
most, what may be keeping Abramoff
himself up late at night, we
suspect, is the murder investigation
now grinding forward in Fort
makes this a candidate for most
explosive scandal (in a Dramatic
Category) since Watergate?
because Jack Abramoff and his
friends are the players in the
conservative revolution that took
over Congress, the White House, and
the lobbying industry...
Second, because Abramoff has been
charged with fraud in connection
with a gambling ship deal in Florida
which ended in a gangland-style
killing of the man Abramoff is
alleged to have defrauded...
third... because The Washington Post
(and practically everyone else
writing about it) can’t resist
describing it as a “gangland-style
hit straight out of
Congressional Quarterly called the
Abramoff-DeLay scandal “The Slow
Decline of a GOP “Godfather.’”
much of this isn’t in
jest? Have we truly become what
much of the rest of the world sees
us as: Gangster America?
Round up the usual suspects
Anthony Ferrari was first
identified in print as a suspect
four years ago, in August of 2001.
The basic facts in the Boulis murder
have been known to investigators
since that time.
FBI’s interest in Claude Pepper’s
family associations with illegal
gambling in South Florida go back
six decades. They were writing memos
about it in 1937.
history that long, and that
hidden... the discovery of assorted
political murders is not exactly a
“stop the presses!” moment.
Especially coming so soon after
George W Bush took power, Boulis’
very visible murder would have
raised concerns that it might signal
a big shake-up in the gambling
Details of the “deep politics”
behind an industry as important and
lucrative as unregulated gambling
are of keen interest to anyone who
wants to understand how power works
must be why they are being doled out
like flu shots in the middle of a
pandemic. They are obviously
considered highly-sensitive... need
to know sensitive, even.
this be an answer of sorts to one of
the biggest mysteries in the case:
why have police waited so long to
charge people for the crime?
Investigators strongly suspected
that Boulis’ cold-blooded murder was
related to the dead man’s riches—and
his businesses. Boulis’ most
profitable business venture was
SunCruz Casinos, which he had
recently and reluctantly sold to a
Washington DC investor group headed
by Republican super-lobbyist Jack
Abramoff, and “fronted” by a buddy
of Abramoff’s from their College
Republican days, a disbarred
attorney and “businessman” named
sale price was $147 million.
Thuggee Greatest Hits
hour before a gunman killed Gus
Boulis, a local developer and two
prominent Hollywood, FL. lawyers had
attempted to persuade Boulis to sell
his interest in a big Hollywood
waterfront hotel project.
controversy around the sale of
Boulis' SunCruz casino boat empire
made Boulis too hot for the public
to accept as a partner on a 20-story
hotel project on city-owned
beachfront land, they told him.
almost a decade of very public
wheeling and dealing, Boulis had
suddenly become persona non
you don’t recall, the Thuggees
were a well-organized confederacy of
professional assassins, an Indian
cult sometimes described as the
world's first mafia. They practiced
large-scale robbery and murder of
travelers between the 13th to the
19th centuries. Members were known
one brutal murder does not a
Republican Thuggee gang make. We
needed more examples. They were,
alas, almost too easily found...
There’s the gangland murder of
Kidan’s own mother, for example. On
Feb. 18, 1993, Kidan's mother,
Judy Shemtov, 46, was
shot in the head and killed after
answering the door of their posh
Richmond Hill home. The motive of
that slaying was a mystery until
Chris Paciello, Miami Beach's
leading club impresario and sometime
boyfriend of Madonna, pleaded guilty
to a racketeering charge and turned
Paciello testified that he was the
getaway driver for a crew from the
Bonanno crime family who went to the
house to rob Kidan's stepfather of
$200,000 they had heard he kept in a
safe in the house.
Shemtov answered the door, two young
men wearing baseball caps and jeans
entered the foyer of her Queens
home, said her husband, Kidan’s
step-father. One of the crew
accidentally shot her.
bullet tore through Judy's left
cheek. Her small body flew into the
air and slammed backward into the
foyer, then dropped to the floor.
Blood splattered all over,” wrote
the tabloid New York Daily News on
April 14, 2002, under a headline
reading “RISE AND FALL OF A PLAYBOY
GoodFellas in action
Calandra looked at Tommy Reynolds. "Let's
make this one to go," he
said, borrowing the line from his
favorite movie "Goodfellas."
two men fled. Here’s a truly
horrible thought: Kidan is suspected
by some of being responsible for his
own mother’s death, by telling the
robbery crew, who knew, where they
kept the cash.
Boulis’s murder cast a pall of fear
over the people who knew him, said
the local paper, the Sun-Sentinel.
What they meant was...people
are afraid to talk.
company, Atlantia staffers remained
silent, referring calls to a public
relations agency. Even police were
having difficulty getting some
people to talk.
are a lot of people who aren't
talking for reasons of personal
safety," said Fort Lauderdale Police
Detective Mike Reed.
one you may have heard about:
“Boulis was murdered in the exact
same way as Don Aronow, Bush’s other
partner,” he stated. Bush’s
Aronow, 59, self-made millionaire;
acknowledged guru of the offshore
powerboat set, rich and handsome
deal-doer adored by friends and
family... and killed on Northeast
188th Street in broad daylight by a
stranger in a dark Lincoln Town Car
who calmly shot Aronow in the chest,
blasting his way down to the groin.
one you may not have, from the White
House Spy Scandal we are hearing so
little about. Two factions are
battling for control of the
Philippines. Abramoff, of course,
has “a dog in that hunt.”
Abramoff’s clients sent a man named
Michael Aquino to the
U.S. to lay low for a while. He was
arrested with the Marine at the
White House who had been feeding him
him over a barrel
an example of why he's laying low:
was a man who released a video clip
during the Presidential campaign
there showing then-Philippine Vice
President Joseph Estrada and a
notorious gambler playing
high-stakes baccarat at the Heritage
was not pleasing to Estrada, an ally
of Imelda Marcos and Abramoff’s.
disappeared without a trace. Nothing
had not been seen nor heard of him
since. Then someone confessed that
Bentain: in a drum.
were brought to a bridge near
Bacolor, where we saw
inside a drum. We could still see
his head but the rest of his body
was already buried under cement,"
said the man’s statement to police.
was crying and begging for his
statement quoted Aquino as telling
"Masyado ka kasing pakialamero at
iyan ang bagay sa iyo (You
deserve this because you mind other
people's business too much)!"
encased alive in cement. Philippine
NBI agents were said to be searching
for a metal drum near the bridge.
players and politicians so
desperately distancing themselves
from Abramoff would prefer that we
think of him as some small-time
hustler, a fringe sleaze ball who
crawled out of the shadows.
wasn't. He was a big-league hustler
and a mainstream sleaze ball. And he
was all theirs.
pretty sure that few will miss the
rat-faced weasels about to be sent
Shakespeare, as acute an observer of
the human condition as has ever
lived, according to some, famously
wrote that “Murder will out.”