The glistening slime trail left by lobbyist Jack Abramoff leads to
an infamous homicide scene in South Florida.
And while the indicted bosom buddy of indicted Rep. Tom DeLay says he had nothing
to do with the mob-style execution of casino fleet founder Gus Boulis, Abramoff
probably wasn't turning cartwheels when three men were recently charged with
murdering Boulis back in February 2001.
One of the defendants is Anthony ''Big Tony'' Moscatiello, identified by police
as an associate of the Gambino crime family. Moscatiello is a longtime pal with
lawyer Adam Kidan, who was Abramoff's partner in what prosecutors say was a
fraudulent purchase of Fort Lauderdale-based SunCruz casinos from Boulis.
Kidan and Abramoff go way back. At the Georgetown Law Center they were both
members of the College Republicans.
Abramoff grew up to be a big-time GOP operative whose friendship with House
Speaker DeLay opened doors to all sorts of wondrous opportunities. For example,
his lobby firm received $66 million in fees from Indian tribes that either wanted
to set up casino operations, or block rival tribes from doing the same.
Sen. John McCain, the tenacious Arizona Republican, is currently holding hearings
about Abramoff's unorthodox lobby tactics and the favors he seems have bought
at the Interior Department, which oversees Indian matters.
It's an ugly story, but not the worst of Abramoff's legal problems. That would
be his partnership with Kidan, whose keen business acumen and sterling ethics
had already led to multiple bankruptcies and the loss of his New York law license.
In 2000, Abramoff shiningly recommended Kidan to Gus Boulis as a buyer for
the SunCruz casino boat fleet, which Boulis was being forced to sell because
he wasn't a U.S. citizen.
The buyout sounded like such a sweet deal that Abramoff decided to go 50-50
with Kidan, and the papers were finally signed in September 2000.
Boulis, who'd kept a stake in SunCruz, soon became enraged with Kidan's free-spending
management. Among those hired for catering and security services were Kidan's
old mob friend Moscatiello and another upstanding citizen named Anthony ''Little
Tony'' Ferrari. When Boulis started to raise hell about the money, things grew
so tense that Kidan got a restraining order and even hired three bodyguards.
Boulis filed suit, and the next month he was dead, shot to death in his BMW
after leaving his office in Fort Lauderdale. Like Abramoff, Kidan says he knows
nothing about Boulis' murder.
In September, Moscatiello, Ferrari and a third man, James ''Pudgy'' Fiorillo,
were charged with the crime. But back to the deal:
Four months after Boulis died, SunCruz was in the toilet. Court records showed
that Kidan and Abramoff had diverted $310,000 of company funds for a luxury
skybox at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., where Abramoff entertained politicians
and GOP fat cats.
He and Kidan also had helped themselves to $500,000 salaries and lots of expensive
perks. But here's the best part: According to prosecutors, the two men took
control of the casino line without ever putting down a dime of their own dough.
Abramoff and Kidan were indicted in South Florida last summer for allegedly
faking documents showing they'd invested $23 million in the deal. Those papers
enabled them to obtain $60 million in real financing.
Both men say they're innocent. Predictably, Abramoff blames Kidan for the alleged
fraud and insists he didn't know about his pal's past business flops, or the
It's quite a tale, and quite a statement about the prevailing culture in Washington,
D.C., where until his troubles began Abramoff owned a restaurant popular with
the conservative crowd.
His role in the SunCruz takeover wasn't widely known four years ago when Gus
Boulis was shot, but Abramoff obviously wasn't concerned. He and Kidan blithely
siphoned the cash out the company and moved on.
Abramoff was coasting along nicely, ripping off the Indian tribes, until the
SunCruz indictments last summer. Today his big-shot friends can't help him,
and wouldn't if they could.
Once a star and darling of congressional Republicans, Abramoff is now political
poison. No more skybox parties or free Scottish golf vacations for the Speaker
of the House. No more schmoozing with Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist.
Indicted in Florida, under fire from McCain in Washington, Abramoff can now
look forward to an upcoming mob-hit trial in which his once-golden name might
be unflatteringly invoked.
He could even be asked to testify, an event that would reduce his once-bulging
Rolodex to the thickness of a library card.
The players and politicians who are so desperately distancing themselves
from Abramoff would prefer that we think of him as some small-time hustler,
a fringe sleazeball who crawled out of the shadows.
He wasn't. He was a big-league hustler and a mainstream sleazeball.
And he was all theirs.