Jack Abramoff's House of Cards
Jack Abramoff’s House of Cards
by Charles Carreon
Jack Abramoff is a Pisces, and he’ll turn 47 on February 28, 2006. Depending on how things work out, he’ll probably be turning 57 in a Federal prison, unless Mary Butler, the career Department of Justice prosecutor who bagged his sorry ass, is very pleased with his cooperation in her investigation of Congressional corruption. His plea agreement provides for a sentence from 108 months to 135 months, with reductions below that level only for providing “substantial assistance” to Ms. Butler’s ongoing investigations.
Meet The (Unindicted) Lawyers
Abramoff, a lawyer himself, chose Abbe Lowell, a well-known Democrat-defender from the Washington legal shark-tank, to negotiate with Butler. Lowell helped Democratic Congressman Gary Condit dodge a bullet after his intern Chandra Levy disappeared, got Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli out of hot water over illegal campaign donations from Buddhist nuns, and served as Chief Investigative Counsel for the Democrats during Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. His lawfirm’s website proudly announces that Lowell “has represented more than 35 elected officials or their campaign committees, providing advice … concerning rules and regulations governing campaign contributions, filing of election forms, filing of financial disclosure information and gifts.” It is worth noting at the outset that Abramoff hired a Democratic fixer rather than an established Republican sleaze-defender. Perhaps he wanted a lawyer who wouldn’t have any scruples about deploying Abramoff’s damaging recollections against Republicans. Abbe Lowell would, presumably, be free of pro-Republican scruples.
Abramoff certainly needed a good lawyer, because Butler is considered on of the best anti-corruption lawyers in the DOJ’s Public Integrity Division. Profiled in a recent National Law Journal article, one of Butler’s colleagues observed: “She’s one of the special ones who will turn over every piece of paper, look at every credit card receipt and phone bill.” Butler spent her first twelve years prosecuting corrupt officials in the South Florida US Attorney’s Office. She convicted a DEA chief of stealing a million dollars in “buy money,” convicted a banker for lying about bribes he paid to the major of Miami Beach, and after a year of investigating corruption in Miami and Dade County in “Operation Greenpalm,” took down Miami’s city manager, a lobbyist, and a clutch of crooked local commissioners. After achieving that career capstone, like a number of other Florida prosecutors, she moved north to Washington when Janet Reno got the top law-enforcement job under Clinton, and led investigations into Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s management of the Department of the Interior, after he blocked establishment of a gambling casino that was opposed by another Indian gambling tribe that had donated over $350,000 to Democratic campaigns.
Butler’s experience investigating Babbitt no doubt aided her investigation of Abramoff, who developed a niche-market in fleecing Indian tribes out of beau-coup bucks in exchange for promises to pull strings with Republican lawmakers. Abramoff developed his bribery skills while at the Seattle-based megafirm of Preston, Gates & Ellis (“Preston”), where he worked from 1997 until 2001, getting Congressmen like Tom DeLay to back his client’s legislative interests.
Keeping Down The Cost of Making Shirts In The USA
The Northern Marianas (also known as Saipan) depends primarily on Japanese tourists and garment factories for income, and receives development assistance from the United States government. Clothing manufacturers in the Northern Marianas are in a US free-trade zone, but enjoy a lower minimum wage and provide fewer worker protections, which lowers the cost of production. As an additional bonus, clothing made in the Northern Marianas is lawfully labeled “Made in USA,” and produced under sweatshop conditions. That’s a free economy that Tom DeLay could love, and love it he did.
During New Years, 1997, at Abramoff's invitation, DeLay and dozens of other congressmen and aides toured the Northern Marianas, an occasion that found DeLay effusive about the man who made the whole trip possible: “When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made.” Although many Northern Marianas garment-workers are procured through the human-trafficking network, and all live in virtual slavery, working 84-hour weeks, for miniscule wages, DeLay pledged to block any legislation harmful to the $1 billion garment industry, and at a banquet hosted by Saipan’s rag trade magnates, urged the beleaguered island capitalists to “Stand firm. Resist evil.” Stand firm they did, and DeLay, eager to reward industry, got them the exemptions from US immigration and labor laws that they need to keep us in cheap shirts. Preston Gates earned $6.7 million in Marianas lobbying fees, of which $3.1 million were paid improperly, without the contract required by law, according to the Seattle Weekly.
Gamblers Fix Congress
Preston clients represented by Abramoff could look forward to having DeLay support legislation they favored. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2000 that DeLay had received over $50,000 from Abramoff and the Choctaw tribe, and that he and his staffers had visited the Choctaw reservation four times. The Choctaws paid Preston over $1 million annually. On May 25, 2000, the Choctaw tribe and eLottery, another Abramoff client, each contributed $25,000 to the National Center for Public Policy Research (“NCPPR”). In a coincidence that will stick in one’s memory, on the same day the Choctaw and eLottery donations were made, Abramoff, DeLay, his wife, and four others left for a trip to Britain, allegedly sponsored by the NCPPR. In fact, Abramoff funneled the gambling donations to pay for the trip, and DeLay broke the law by getting on the plane. A couple of months later, eLottery and the Choctaws got their payoff, when DeLay helped defeat the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which would have criminalized Internet betting.
The Revolving Door Between Government And Business Flies Off Its Hinges Altogether
Preston has been good to DeLay, and DeLay attracts talented staffers. Those talented staffers need jobs where they can make lots of money after they finish with being Congressional staffers, so sometimes they go to Preston and get a job. Michael Scanlon and William Jarrell were both DeLay aides who moved over to Preston to work for the Choctaw tribe after they left Federal employment. Sometimes it goes the other way, and Preston employees want to go into government so they can garner more influence. This easy interflow between positions of government influence and positions that influence government was deliberately encouraged by the Republican leadership through what they called “the K Street Project.”
The K Street Project is why David Safavian, who lobbied for the terrorist organization Hamas, and at Preston, became the top procurement officer for the Government Services Administration, and why Patrick Pizzella, who worked at Preston lobbying on behalf of the Saipan sweatshop bosses, became Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Labor. It’s why Tony Rudy, former Deputy Chief of Staff to DeLay, and Neil Volz, former Chief of Staff for Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, just got big jobs at lobbying firms on K Street. It’s why Karl Rove hired Susan Ralston to be his secretary. Previously, she had been Abramoff’s secretary at another lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig. When you’ve worked for one master criminal, it makes it a lot easier to work for the next one.
Congress has done a tremendous job of ignoring its own moral defects. Abramoff’s influence peddling has befouled the halls of government since the Republicans took the White House and the Congressional majority. The naked rule of power under DeLay’s regime silenced what ethical qualms might have disturbed the conscience of our lawmakers, and the budget has exploded as every representative roots in the trough for some nugget of value to deliver to their corporate sponsors. In the race for campaign cash, our representatives may as well abandon their pin-striped suits and don racing attire, complete with corporate logos. For today’s Congress, it has turned out to be easiest to relax and enjoy the looting of the country, to stand straight and tall as they sign one bloated spending bill after another, endow more government boondoggles with rubber dollars, and run, run, run as fast as they can for the safety of a patriotic soundbite.
The roots of Abramoff’s political influence go deeper than simple political palm-greasing. Abramoff’s career has been obscenely presumptuous, and in retrospect, his persona was preposterous. Even as an admitted felon, swathed in a black overcoat, his face cast in a mask of implacable determination. That confidence must have been magnetic and overwhelming before the fall. Like a Pied Piper for fat cats, he played a tune that none could resist, ensnaring them with the lure of illicit influence, destroying dozens of careers and the last of the trust the American people had in their Congress. If someone had planned a sting operation to reveal the avarice and arrogance of our national political elite, they could not have done as well. Abramoff knows people’s weak points, and the weakest point of every greedy bastard is his desire to like himself. This desire to feel like a good guy accounts for the grandiose, self-congratulatory boosterism of Republican politics these days, and Abramoff was ready-made for this political climate.
What Would An Omnipotent Deity Do?
In his college years, Abramoff got right in tune with the coming age of smug, judgmental religiosity sitting comfortably next to naked, brutal militarism. Making a big deal out of his religion held Abramoff in good stead with DeLay, who has often proclaimed his belief that God guides his steps and has directed him to smite the unrighteous. Abramoff wears a yarmulke and blew about $4 million on a school with a Judaic name in California that educated his two children and then folded, leaving bill collectors with matzo crumbs to cover the school’s debts. Abramoff maintained Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who has alliances with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, on a $20,000 per month stipend paid by the Capital Athletic Foundation, a phony nonprofit Abramoff organized to dodge taxes and raise money by promising to provide programs for inner-city youth. Abramoff’s emails with Lapin show that Lapin happily forged scholarly Jewish credentials for Abramoff to fatten his resume with religious virtue. Beware the pious man.
Seizing The Moral High Ground With the Christians
Like attracts like, and so the smell of refined bullshit emanating from Abramoff attracted his fellow-hypocrite, Ralph Reed, another man of God. Together with Grover Norquist, the tax-cut fiend, Abramoff and Reed created the College Republicans National Committee, with Reed as its Executive Director. With the turn of the Millennium heralding not the return of the Messiah but rather the dawn of a new, vice-driven economy, Reed and Abramoff started a protection racket for gambling enterprises. For a fee, Reed would oppose any gambling project or pro-gambling legislation that you might designate. He was an anti-gambling crusader, and could credibly rustle up a lynch mob to hang gamblers of any stripe – riverboat gamblers, casino gamblers, lotto players, you name it. On the other hand, for a fee, he could just go interfere with someone else’s livelihood.
The most brazen swindle was worked upon the Texas-based Tigua Indian tribe, that had put its campaign contribution eggs in the wrong (Democratic) basket. In 1999, triumphant Texas Republicans, enjoying the results of DeLay’s extensive vote-manipulation, were busy punishing in them by closing their casino. Abramoff, working for the Louisiana Coushatta Tribe, hired Reed to rile up religious support to close the Tigua casino. Regarding the Tigua casino, Abramoff told Reed in an email, “We should continue to pile on until the place is shuttered,” and later, “I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I’d love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out.”
A week after bemoaning the “moronic” attitude of the Tiguas, Abramoff and Scanlon offered to help the Tiguas reopen, concealing of course, the fact that they’d just shut them down. Tigua Tribal Governor Arturo Senclair testified before Congress that Abramoff and Scanlon “came in as knights in shining armor [and we] had not an inkling that they were doing anything against us.” Desperate to reopen, the Tiguas paid Abramoff $4.2 million in fees, and $300,000 more for the Republican and Democratic candidates, including $32,000 the Tiguas paid to Congressman Bob Ney’s political action committee. Ney duly supported an amendment to a House bill that would have aided the Tigua in their efforts to reopen, but ultimately the casino remained shuttered. The sin of supporting Democrats is not lightly forgiven in today’s Texas. Bound together with their competition in a spiral of financial self-exploitation, the Tiguas, Coushattas, Saginaw Chippewas and Agua Caliente tribes jointly contributed $30,000 to the Missouri Millennium Fund established by Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican, and attended several of the PAC’s fund-raisers.
From 2000 – 2004, Abramoff and Reed played these good-cop-bad-cop games with the Indian tribes mentioned above, and others, ratcheting up the cost of influence peddling for the sin industry. Nowadays, however, Reed is taking a hiding in his campaign for Governor of Georgia. We must remember, though, that memory loss is common for those who hold government office, and Reed has been Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor for several years, so it’s not surprising he can’t remember those cozy years of comfortably squeezing the tribes of their excess funds. But the paperwork remains.
What? Those Indians Want An Investigation?
According to first public statement of The House Committee on Indian Affairs, that revealed some of its findings on September 29, 2004 after reviewing thousands of pages of emails and other documents, Abramoff garnered over $66 million from Native American tribes by engaging in unlawful activities like backing tribal elections to put their pals in power so they could pay Abramoff more money, overcharging for services and products Abramoff and Scanlon fleeced the gambling tribes as energetically as the first generation of lawyers stole the entire West, using the same tools: firewater, manipulable chiefs, bogus agreements, and promises to make sure everything went all right with “The Great White Father.” No less than their forebears, Abramoff and Scanlon were equipped with forked tongues, gold watches, and fountain pens. Plus, they had cell phones and Blackberries, with which they could refer to their Native American clients as “monkeys,” “troglodytes,” and “idiots.” Thus, Abramoff arranged the descendants of the original inhabitants of America to reconnect with their roots by playing the fools at the National Greed Olympics, duping the tribes into funding their abuse at the hands of people who hate and revile them, and take joy in bilking them out of what remains of their self-respect. Talk about “Manifest Destiny!” Some folks are just born to lose.
David Safavian – A Gifted Student of The Abramoff Method
David Safavian learned a few tricks about swindling Indians from Abramoff at Preston, and put them to work building the fortunes of his new lobbying shop, “Janus Merritt” with skinflint Grover Norquist. (Please note that Janus is the two-faced god of the Romans, an oddly appropriate description of how the Indian-swindling gambit worked.) Janus and Safavian took on a slew of Internet gambling firms, bringing in $2.5 million from those accounts. But in 2000, Safavian apparently wanted to build his influence more than he wanted bags of cash. In Utah Republican Congressman Chris Cannon, who had been elected in 1996 on an anti-gambling platform, Safavian had found his bad cop.
Safavian started by seeding the relationship by arranging for himself and two other Janus employees to donate a total of $2,750 for Cannon’s 2000 campaign. After getting Cannon elected, Safavian joined Cannon’s staff in 2001, but kept both oars in the water, playing both staffer and lobbyist. He set up a soft-money fund for Cannon, but listed his Janus email address as the contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. The email address remained on IRS filings while Safavian served as the congressman’s chief of staff. In an interview with the Federal Times Register, Safavian admitted: “In Congressman [Chris] Cannon’s office, I was a chief of staff … I was a lobbyist. Very much behind the scenes.” From this two-faced position, Safavian was able to pay Janus the occasional disbursement. A short time after Safavian signed on with Cannon’s staff, the Congressman paid $7,500 to Janus, and the next year sent Janus another $5,960.
Safavian’s goal wasn’t just swindling Indians, though. He had a slew of gambling clients who shared a simple agenda –keep the Net safe for losers to gamble their wages away in the privacy of their own home, garage, office, or nursing home. Nationally, the average online gambler is an elderly southerner on disability. These are the same people who chain-smoke and generate huge public health expenses due to their ignorance, while complaining about huge verdicts against Philip Morris and insisting on their right to smoke cancer sticks. Safavian had an idea that he put to work. Let the old, chain-smoking gamblers aid in their own destruction! So with the help of the online gambling entrepreneurs, he started a website called “Logon4choice.com” where visitors could contact their Congressional representatives and “urge them to preserve … your rights to gamble online.”
Eager to demonstrate his zeal, Safavian wrote one client the following breathless description of his lobbying activities on their behalf: “Our entire team has been essentially camped out on Capitol Hill and at the White House for the past two weeks … urging the negotiators to reject any Internet gambling rider that might come up.” On May 14, 2002, Safavian’s efforts produced a valuable victory for Janus’ gambling clients, when Cannon burdened two Internet-gambling bills with “virtuous riders” that removed exemptions for online horse and dog betting. This was a for-sure deal-killer, because horse and dog betting is ubiquitous throughout the nation, and many Congress people represent constituencies that enjoy this form of gambling, including Illinois Republican and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL). If the bill reached the floor, it would probably die. Cannon’s virtuous insistence on killing off all online gambling torpedoed the legislation, allowing the Mormon Congressman to claim the moral high ground, while actually accomplishing what Safavian’s clients wanted – the freedom to keep skimming about $6 Billion per year in online gambling revenue from sick, poor, old, bored Americans. Safavian took credit for the achievement, telling his alumni magazine that he managed the “minutiae of the legislative process,” from his ambiguous position as a lobbyist on Cannon’s staff. Two days after the fix was in, and the Internet gambling bills were dead, Safavian moved to a new job – Chief Procurement Officer for the General Services Administration (“GSA”). However, Cannon has developed a permanent addiction to gambling money, as the Kansas City Star reported in its August, 28, 2005 edition: “Along with the Viejas and the Choctaws, Cannon also enjoyed donations from … the Agua Caliente tribe in California, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe of Michigan and the Tigua Indian Reservation, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.” Donations to Cannon from Indian gambling tribes increased from zero to over $38,000 during the period of Safavian’s influence. The cost to the nation for this paltry sum was, of course, far higher.
A Trip Most Wish They Had Missed
With it clear to all that the vice economy was treating them very well, Abramoff threw an international party trip to St. Andrew’s golfing range in Scotland for his posse. All of those who made the trip have lived to regret it, among them Tom DeLay, Abramoff himself, Bob Ney, Ralph Reed, and Safavian. Safavian told the Washington Post he’d paid back $3,100 for his expenses, saying the trip was “primarily for golfing,” and “had no business orientation to it.” Unfortunately for him, this was a documentable lie. In emails months before the trip, Abramoff had lobbied Safavian extensively to get something that he thought Safavian had it in his power to grant – sweetheart lease deals on two tasty pieces of Federal real estate – the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C., and a rural estate of several hundred acres. Abramoff had even sent Safavian some draft letters that he could have some Congressmen sign to support the idea of leasing the properties to Abramoff’s front groups. As the incriminating emails sat in his inbox, however, Safavian solicited an opinion from a government “ethics lawyer” about whether he could fly to Scotland with Abramoff and his crew. Safavian lied to the ethics lawyer, however, saying he had no pending business with Abramoff, and would pay for his own expenses. The ethics lawyer said he could take the trip.
When the Indian Affairs committee started sniffing around, Safavian stuck by his lie, and showed them the receipt for $3,100 that he said had covered the costs of the trip. He of course did not produce copies of his emails with Abramoff about the Old Post Office and the other federal property they were trying to hijack. Further, the $3,100 number is too low, because Safavian’s expenses for lodging alone on this luxury trip, which included a stopover in London and golfing at several top-knotch golf courses in the British Isles, certainly far exceeded that expense. These small concealments were revealed when Greenberg, Traurig, the lobbying firm where Abramoff went after he left Preston, kicked Abramoff out, and gave all of his emails to the FBI.
Loot, Loot, Who Gives A Hoot?
Greenberg donned a white hat with alacrity once its partners saw that a wind had begun to blow, threatening Abramoff’s house of cards, but telling that story requires introducing you to yet another Republican lawyer with less scruples than an old meth head has teeth. This one’s name is Timothy Flanigan, and despite his Irish name, he’s a Mormon who got his undergraduate degree from BYU, his law degree from University of Virginia, has fourteen kids, and until November 21, 2004, worked in the White House directly under Alberto Gonzales. He left the West Wing for a trip through the revolving door the White House shares with Tyco Corporation, which had been hammered by the markets for allowing Dennis Kozlowski to loot it, and needed to improve its corporate governance procedures to nudge its stock price back into the double-digits. What better way to burnish your bonafides than to tap the personnel of the most scandal-ridden administration since Andrew Jackson’s?
Once in the top lawyer spot at Tyco, what did Flanigan do? He gave Greenberg, Traurig $2 Million of Tyco’s money for lobbying services to thwart the enactment of laws then pending in Congress that would deprive Tyco of a huge tax loophole it was exploiting by offshoring paper assets in Bermuda. After accomplishing this important private-sector task of thwarting the enactment of legislation hazardous to tax loopholes, Flanigan’s former boss Alberto Gonzales beckoned Flanigan to hop back into bed with government, offering him the position of Assistant Attorney General, the nation’s Number Two Prosecutor, reporting directly to Gonzales. However, coming fast on the heels of the Katrina disaster, the Mike Brown cronyism flap, the indictment of Scooter Libby, and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Flanigan’s nomination came up looking like something the cat dragged in.
Flanigan did poorly under the lights of a Congressional inquiry, and had a particularly hard time explaining why, as soon as he switched over from his job in the White House, he hired Abramoff to rig legislation for Tyco, a company that had just packed its last CEO off to prison, and had been hoping for an ethics makeover, not a further descent into sleaze. The questions sharpened when it was revealed that, of the $2 Million Tyco paid Greenberg, Traurig for lobbying services, Abramoff had stolen over $1.5 Million, redirecting it to his own companies. Doubt turned to disbelief when Flanigan, who had come on board at Tyco to protect it from further looting, was unable to explain why he had not discovered Abramoff’s theft of Tyco money before Greenberg, Traurig. As the Washington Post reported on October 8, 2005:
In April 2004, Greenberg Traurig informed Tyco that Abramoff had misspent $1.5 million of the more than $2 million that Tyco had paid him in lobbying fees, by diverting the funds to companies that Abramoff controlled. Flanigan assured the committee, in his written answers, that he had cooperated in the firm's investigation and also that Tyco had turned over pertinent evidence to the Justice Department. But the Democrats then wondered why Flanigan - who said he was “shocked and disappointed” by Greenberg Traurig's disclosure - had not caught the alleged misconduct himself. Flanigan responded that Abramoff had fooled even his own employer.
The obvious answer, that Flanigan could not speak for fear of going directly to jail without passing go, was that the money was not for lobbying, but a straightforward wealth transfer from the private sector of the Republican scam operation to the government sector of the same operation. In this scenario, people like Flanigan further the greater good, not only of Tyco, but of the entire world, by giving it away in neat little stacks to Republican lawmakers, who make the world safe for all of us. This makes Tyco shareholders kind of altruistic, but in the brave new world of governance by an elite corps of public/private servants, we must make allowances for these new arrangements.
The corruption of Republican lawmakers by a flood of money drawn from gambling interests has been widespread and extensive. While the identities of many remain undisclosed, we can attempt a list. We have spoken of Tom DeLay and Bob Ney, both of whom decided to shed their leadership posts in Congress after they were identified anonymously in the plea agreements that Abramoff and Scanlon have agreed to. With Abbe Lowell in possession of numberless incriminating documents, there is every possibility that a plethora of deals are in the offing, because the rule in Federal prosecutions is that the first ones to roll on their pals get the best deals. Honesty becomes the best policy when your lies have been found out. Mary Butler, with her methodical approach, is very likely to bag her limit of slimy bottom-fish, but some people are wondering if Abramoff and one of his partners are literally going to get away with murder.
I Steal Your Gambling Company – You Complain – I Kill You
Murder of whom, you ask? Of Konstantin “Gus” Boulis, the former owner of SunCruz, a Florida cruise line that specialized in “trips to nowhere” or better put, anywhere far enough offshore that Florida and US gambling laws wouldn’t apply. Apparently the boats were popular places, because as you can deduce, if gambling laws don’t apply, then none of the other laws do, either. Welcome To Terrorland, Daniel Hopsicker’s book about flight schools in South Florida, reports that Mohammed Atta, leader of the 911 hijackers, was a strip-bar habitué and a cokehead, and enjoyed the pleasures available on SunCruz facilities. Boulis’ floating dens of iniquity plied the waters off the Florida coast for several years with nothing more than minor harassment, but Boulis’ happy days came to an end on August 3, 1998, when Federal authorities file a sealed, civil complaint against Boulis, alleging he purchased some of his SunCruz gambling boats before he became a U.S. citizen. On February 10, 2000, Boulis threw in the towel and agreed to sell SunCruz within 36 months and never go back into the gaming industry. Abramoff even displayed a little Congressional muscle to keep the heat on Boulis, so he would be strongly motivated to find a seller.
Abramoff, smelling blood in the water, began maneuvering to acquire SunCruz, and got his friends in Washington to turn up the heat. March 30, 2000, Bob Ney entered a statement into the congressional record attacking Boulis. On September 27, 2000 Boulis contracted to sell SunCruz to Abramoff, Adam Kidan, and a third partner, Ben Waldman, for $147.5 million, following a protracted nine-day closing in Manhattan. Ney spoke up again in Congress after the deal was closed, praising the new management as a great change for the better. Boulis kept a silent 10 percent interest, and accepted a $20 million promissory note in lieu of the $23 million cash down payment. Within a few months, though, both parties declared that the deal had gone bad.
By the end of 2000, Kidan and Boulis had publicly accused each other of lying and cheating, and Kidan told reporters Boulis was trying to kill him. It was just another prequel to what looked to be acrimonious litigation, but someone decided that Boulis had enjoyed enough of the good life in South Florida, and shot him to death as he drove home from his Ft. Lauderdale office. The police said there were no suspects, but the Boulis estate sued Kidan in Broward Circuit Court, alleging in their complaint that Kidan was linked to various organized crime figures. In Florida, the facts emerge slowly, like a bloated body rising from the depths of a swamp. Kidan and Abramoff had looted SunCruz rapaciously, leaving nothing to pay Boulis for the business he had built like an ordinary decent gambling magnate. The October 2, 2005 Miami Herald reported the following facts in an article entitled “Kidan’s Story Stranger Than Fiction:”
Miami Herald wrote:
Court records show that Kidan, along with Abramoff, drew a $500,000 annual salary; rented a $4,500 condo on Williams Island in Aventura; bought a 34-foot powerboat for $90,000; and leased an armored Mercedes-Benz for $207,000. Kidan and Abramoff also diverted $310,000 in SunCruz money to pay for a luxury skybox at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, according to court documents. It was part of Abramoff's Republican fundraising enterprise at that stadium, Camden Yards and MCI Center in the Baltimore-Washington area. Kidan also tapped SunCruz coffers to pay about $250,000 to Moscatiello and Ferrari, who claimed to be a relative of Gambino boss Gotti, for catering and security services.
So that’s not bad – a half a million in salary each for both Abramoff and Kidan, over three-hundred grand to fete politicians in a “skybox” at FedEx Field, forty-five hundred a month for an island condo, and a paltry ninety-grand for a cigarette boat to get there. After downing all those goodies, it was a no-brainer to pay Moscatiello and Ferrari a quarter-million to clinch the deal by silencing the clueless Boulis, who didn’t know when he’d been fleeced by a couple of guys who were on the Republican sweetheart list. What is particularly tasty is the fact that, during all of this looting of a gambling boat company, Abramoff, Reed, and Safavian were intensively engaged in strategically blocking the expansion of Indian gambling casinos. Perhaps it was all innocent, though. Maybe Mohammed
After Boulis’ murder, Kidan tried to pull a corporate coup by putting SunCruz in bankruptcy, but the Boulis estate bought out Kidan in bankruptcy court, and until April 7, 2003, held control of the company until a bankruptcy judge authorized sale of SunCruz for $36.1 Million to a group led by Boulis’ nephew, Spiros Naos. As the bankruptcy court proceedings were creeping along, in May 2002, Lenders Foothill Capital and Citadel, who had backed Abramoff and Kidan with funding based on the $20 Million transfer, alleged that the payment to Boulis had indeed been fraudulent. Then, in November 2002, a Federal grand jury began investigating the SunCruz sale and financing.
The other shoe dropped loudly on September 27, 2005, when Fort Lauderdale police arrested of three men for Boulis’s murder: Anthony Ferrari and James Fiorillo were arrested in Florida, and Anthony Moscatiello was arrested in New York. Moscatiello, described by the Miami Herald as “Kidan’s pal,” has longstanding affiliations with the Gambino crime family headed for years by “Silver Don” John Gotti. Although Kidan claims he met Moscatiello through the restaurant business, police say Moscatiello’s true occupation was as an enforcer for a Mafia loan sharking operation.
No stranger to mob violence himself, Kidan’s own mother was murdered in what was called a “botched mob robbery” in Florida by the Bonanno crime family. But Kidan found a silver lining in that cloud, skimming $15,000 in funds posted as a reward for information concerning the murder, a trick that cost him his New York law license. So you see, not all of Abramoff’s friends are lawyers. Some of them used to be.
Let’s Make A Deal
With this storm of flying fecal material whirling about their heads, it is no wonder that Kidan and Abramoff both decided to plead to the Florida SunCruz fraud indictments. Kidan’s deal should net out at under five years, and Abramoff has been assured that any time that is imposed in the Florida case will likely “run concurrent” with the years he’s assessed in the corruption case. In other words, the SunCruz fraud is a twofer for Abramoff. While their admissions of guilt in the SunCruz case don’t foreclose prosecution for murder in Florida state court, Abramoff is likely to be a very busy, and still very important man for the next several years. With Abbe Lowell as his choirmaster, his stool-pigeon performance will be orchestrated for maximum advantage to Abramoff, and minimal disclosure to the public. Lowell will sell every bit of information as dearly as he can, and whatever the look on Abramoff’s face says, it does not bespeak repentance. His canny mind is unfazed, and he will attempt to finger his former associates with an eye to preserving future benefit and paying off old scores.
Certainly many powerful Republicans are quaking silently in their richly-paneled government offices. These people thought they were on the fast track with Jack Abramoff, but they didn’t realize how crazy, how wild and uncircumspect their partner in greed would become. Few expected Greenberg, Traurig to put him on the pavement and turn over his emails to the FBI. There may be a silver lining for true conservatives, however. Since most Washington politicians and operatives are lawyers, and since conviction of a felony results in a canceled law license in all fifty states, Abramoff may have unwittingly advanced the stated Republican goal of reducing the number of lawyers in government. A goodly number of politicians may need to trim their resumes of legal qualifications, and add some references from the Bureau of Prisons, once Abramoff’s house of cards completely collapses.